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The Ebola virus

Ebola a Vall d'Hebron

The Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a serious infectious disease originating in wild animals. It is caused by a virus of the “Ebolavirus” genus (filoviruses) that tends to occur as outbreaks with a mortality rate of 50%.

Description

Symptoms

The first symptoms are sudden onset of fever, muscle pain, weakness, headache and neck ache. These are followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased function of the kidneys and liver, skin eruptions and haemorrhaging.

In the final phase of the disease, patients experience multiple organ failure which, in some cases may be overcome in the second week of the virus’ evolution and in others may cause death.

It is a contagious disease from the onset of symptoms.

  

Who is affected by Ebola?

It is a common disease in West and Central Africa. The biggest outbreak occurred in 2014 and resulted in over 11,000 deaths (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone).

The incubation period ranges between 2 and 21 days.

In humans it is transmitted through direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people and with objects contaminated with infected patients’ body fluids. It can also be spread through sexual contact up to three months before any sign of symptoms.

 

Diagnosis

It is essential to consider patients’ prior travel epidemiology and contact with others. Definitive diagnosis is carried out in laboratories in specialist centres, where the viral nucleic acid can be detected in biological samples. Before establishing an EVD diagnosis, other infectious diseases should be ruled out such as malaria, typhoid fever, dengue or meningitis.   

 

Typical treatment

As yet there is no specific treatment to combat the disease. It is important to keep patients well hydrated and maintain their arterial pressure, as well as provide to other essential life support.

  

Prevention

Ebola prevention is based on different strategies:

  • adopting strict protection measures in the care of infected patients.
  • appropriate treatment of fluid samples, waste and corpses.
  • monitoring and supervision of patient contact, to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to the community.
  • providing healthcare information and education to patients.

A vaccination that has shown excellent results is currently in the approval stage.

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