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Most in the US have moved on from the Ebola virus, the fear that gripped the country last year has dissipated, people have gotten caught up with their own lives, and new more pressing matters have their attention. For the countries effected it has not been so easy, even more so for those woman who are pregnant. Ebola Virus disease and pregnancy leads to an almost absolute fatal end. Almost 95 percent of pregnant woman who have the Ebola Virus disease will lose their lives, and all of their children will die.
Not only does the Ebola Virus kills the majority of pregnant woman who contract the disease but it also destroys availability of medical treatment for other pregnant woman in countries that experience an epidemic of the disease. In last years West African Ebola epidemic many pregnant woman who did not have the disease were turned away from hospitals and forced to deliver their babies at homes. Doctors and nurses in the countries were fearful of delivering pregnant woman due to the risk of exposure. Deliveries of babies are accompanied by lots of bleeding and other bodily fluids. Sometimes because of the nature of the delivery, time to put the proper protective gear is not possible, which would expose those medical professionals to what could potentially be unsafe bodily fluids. To make matters worse many of the symptoms of pregnancy and delivery are similar to that of Ebola, nausea, cramping, fever, and bleeding, which can either make the disease go unnoticed or make people fear that the disease is present when it is not.
During the peak of the Ebola virus outbreak, many hospitals closed their doors to non-Ebola patients, exasperating what is already a difficult condition in these countries. Lack of prenatal care, a safe and clean environment to deliver a baby, and lack of help for woman increases the infant mortality rate in countries that already have a higher than average rate. Pregnant woman with the Ebola virus disease who can not receive treatment are absolutely going to see a fatal end.
Fortunately in January of this year a maternity center for pregnant woman with Ebola and those who may have the disease opened in Sierra Leone. The facility is inside a newly opened Ebola treatment center in Kissy, which is a suburb of Freetown. The center is run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization. Staff in the maternity ward of the facility will be able to concentrate on providing the specialized care that pregnant woman with Ebola need. The facility at the time of its opening had 33 beds designated for pregnant woman suffering from Ebola, and woman who are suspected of having the disease. Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, the Ebola outbreak only adds to it, but now woman who are pregnant and suffering from the Ebola virus will have a place to receive the specialized treatment they so desperately need, So little is know about pregnancy and the Ebola, hopes are that this facility will increase the understanding of the impact of Ebola on pregnant woman and how medical personnel can improvement treatment methods.
Only one study was conducted on Ebola and pregnancy with the report being released in 1999. In 1995 during the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belgium researches along with the help of local researchers reported that out of the 15 pregnant woman who became ill with the disease, only 14 survived. All the fetuses died, even the fetuses of four woman who contracted the illness in the third trimester of their pregnancy. Many of the woman died from bleeding, all 15 woman had severe bleeding, something expected with a disease that is part of the group of hemorrhagic fevers. Many of the woman miscarried before they died. The Ebola virus is passed to the fetus and those fetuses who make it to delivery die within a few days.
The Ebola virus disease is an absolute fatal end in any fetus of a pregnant woman who suffers from the disease,now it will hopefully receive the attention and research it needs. Hope lies with the researchers and doctors now. With so many more effected with the disease this time much more evidence can be gathered, within that evidence researchers hope the answers on how to help these vulnerable woman will be found.
By Jessica Hamel
MSF: Sierra Leone: MSF Opens Maternity Unit For Pregnant Woman With Ebola
The Daily Beast: The Only Thing More Terrifying Than Ebola Is Being Pregnant With Ebola
KUOW.org: Dangerous Deliveries: Ebola Leaves Moms and Babies Without Care
Photo Courtesy of J.K. Califf’s Flickr page- Creative Commons License