What was originally being reported as a mysterious illness infecting people in the country of Guinea, has now been confirmed to be an outbreak of the Ebola virus. According to some reports, the number of people who have died because of the virus has risen to over fifty since it was first reported. Because of the rapidly changing situation, however, completely accurate numbers are hard to come by.
Six weeks ago, doctors in Guinea first began to see patients with the symptoms of bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting, but they were not immediately able to identify the source of the sickness. It has only been in the last couple of days that scientists in Lyon, France were able to make a definitive conclusion that the Ebola virus was indeed the cause of the sickness.
Now that the outbreak in Guinea has been confirmed to be Ebola, international efforts have begun to battle the virus. The international health organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has put together more than 30 tons of medical supplies and is heading for the southern region of the country were the outbreak seems to be centered. Medicins Sans Frontieres currently has a group of 24 trained personnel in the country who have set up two isolation wards. One isolation ward is set up in the city of Gueckedou and the other will be set up in the city of Macenta. In addition to the 24 staff already there, they will be sending more people soon.
According to the World Health Organization, Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases known to mankind and, depending on the strain of the virus, can kill anywhere from 25 percent to 90 percent of those infected. The fatality rate of all Ebola outbreaks to date is 68 percent. There are five known strains of the virus, four of which are deadly to humans. The virus passes from person to person through direct contact with the bodily fluids. The virus can also be passed by dead or infected animals.
There is no known vaccine for Ebola. For the most part, treatment consists of making sure the patient get fluids in order to counteract dehydration, pain management, and antibiotics to treat other infections that occur as a result of Ebola.
From the time someone is infected by the virus until the time they begin to show symptoms is relatively short. The short time makes it relatively easy to isolate those with the sickness and keep them from spreading the disease further. But even the body of a deceased person can still cause infections so doctors have to take special precautions. The Guinean health authorities are advising people to stay away from objects belonging to sick or dead people and from eating the meat of animals caught in the wild.
In addition to small towns in the south of the country, outbreaks of Ebola have also been confirmed in Guinea’s capital city, Conakry. Guinea is a country on the west coast of the continent of Africa. It has never had an outbreak of the Ebola virus.
By Dan Reyes