The worst Ebola virus outbreak in history continues to spread fast and is currently documented to have infected more than 1,000 people in four west African countries. The current Ebola scare started in southern Guinea and then spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. The latest case that is escalating reason for concern, was discovered in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country. It involved a man who collapsed after he arrived at Nigeria’s airport in Lagos on a flight from Liberia last Sunday. He was identified as 40-year-old Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian government employee. Sawyer was quarantined at a local hospital but his condition rapidly worsened and he died on Tuesday.
The Ebola virus disease (EVD), formally known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, was first discovered in cases originating in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan in 1976. The name Ebola was taken from the Ebola River which is located near the village in the Congo where one of the cases was discovered. Symptoms are described as the onset of sudden fever, muscle pain, extreme weakness, sore throat and headache, rash, diarrhea, vomiting, reduced liver and kidney function, and internal and external bleeding in severe cases.
The disease is highly contagious and is believed to have originated with fruit bats which are considered to be natural hosts for the virus. The bats carry and spread the disease but are unaffected by it. Transmission has been observed through the handling of infected animals such as chimpanzees, fruit bats and other ill or dead animals found in the wild. Consuming the raw meat of infected animals is another means of transmission. Human-to-human transmission is through the exposure to bodily fluids like sweat, blood, semen, mucous and other secretions. The disease has a fatality rate from 50 percent up to 90 percent and there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment.
In a related development, an American physician working with Ebola patients in Liberia, is reported to have been infected with the virus. Dr. Kent Brantly, working with a charity group called the Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia since October 2013, is currently being treated in Monrovia. Liberia. Prior to Dr. Brantley’s work in Liberia, he practiced as a family physician in Fort Worth, Texas.
Geographically, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are border countries while Nigeria is separated from the other three outbreak locations by the countries of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali. Nigerian officials have stepped up surveillance at all airports, seaports and land borders for others who may be infected and attempting to enter the country. Although the incubation period for EVD is from two to 21 days, according to a report published by CNN, the virus is contagious only after the infected person becomes symptomatic. Due to the highly contagious nature of the Ebola virus, the potential for it to spread fast and wide is great.
Health officials are also concerned about the virus due to reports that the spread of the disease is being facilitated by a lack of understanding, and in many cases a lack of belief that the disease is real. Craig Manning, Center for Disease Control health communications strategist, reports that some communities in Sierra Leone have adopted the belief that those ill with Ebola are being killed by foreign doctors. The phenomenon is causing family members to move and hide infected relatives and even those who have already succumbed to the disease, thereby creating a greater risk of infecting countless others.
One solution being implemented to educate the masses and refute the notion of doctors killing Ebola stricken patients is a campaign to communicate with the public via multi-media efforts including introducing Ebola survivors on public radio stations. The Ebola virus has thus far spread fast and the number of those infected with EVD in four countries is approximately 1,093 with 660 confirmed fatalities, according to World Health Organization sources.
By Mark Politi