Based on current conversations we are having in person and on social media it is obvious how concerned people are about the Ebola virus. Now with new cases being reported in Spain and the USA, even the most calm and pragmatic people are showing some genuine concern about what is now being described as an epidemic.
In order to separate the facts from the fiction we have looked into some of the best information available in order to assist those of you with concerns.
The Ebola virus has claimed more than 4,000 lives during the current epidemic in West Africa, the largest outbreak since the virus was discovered nearly 40 years ago. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 9,000 people have been infected during the outbreak.
What is Ebola?
Ebola is a serious infectious illness which often proves fatal. The virus, which is thought to have originated in fruit bats, was first detected in 1976 in an outbreak near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
How is the disease caught and spread?
People are infected when they have direct contact through broken skin, or the mouth and nose, with the blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola. The virus can be present in urine and semen too. Infection may also occur through direct contact with contaminated bedding, clothing and surfaces – but only through broken skin.
It is still unclear how long the virus exists on surfaces but there is some evidence to suggest it can last up to six days. Bleach and chlorine can kill Ebola.
The disease is not airborne, like flu. Very close direct contact with an infected person is required for the virus to be passed to another person.
How Ebola spreads
It can take up anything from two to 21 days for humans with the virus to show symptoms and people are not infectious until the symptoms develop.
People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus – in some cases, up to seven weeks after they recover.
What are the symptoms?
The Ebola virus causes a range of painful and debilitating symptoms
The early symptoms are a sudden fever, muscle pain, fatigue, headache and sore throat.
This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, a rash and bleeding – both internal and external – which can be seen in the gums, eyes, nose and in the stools.
Patients tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure.
How is it treated?
There is no proven cure for Ebola.
Severely ill patients need to be rehydrated quickly using intravenous fluids. They should be isolated from other people and given intensive care by medical experts.
Potential vaccines are being tested. If the trials are successful they would be used to protect healthcare workers first.
Experimental drugs such as ZMapp have also been used, but their effectiveness has not been proved.
Blood products from survivors are also being tried as a potential therapy.
The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says this outbreak comes from the deadliest and most aggressive strain of the virus.
It is not known which factors allow some people to recover while most succumb but experts say early treatment is key.
The facts and information about Ebola was taken in part from www.bbc.co.uk
All content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.