Ebola hemorrhagic fever
Ebola hemorrhagic fever no longer exists as a mysterious disease in the jungles of Africa. It has once again reared its ugly head, this time moving into more populated areas. This becomes an emerging public health threat quickly. With the rate of human travel, an infected individual could be anywhere in the world in as little as 24 hours.
A recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has raised this concern again. The current response includes vaccination of people at highest risk (health care professionals, contacts of cases, and contacts of contacts). Proper hand hygiene remains one of the most important defense measures in the general population. Public education campaigns work to encourage people to seek medical care as soon as clinical signs are noted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer technical assistance to key ports and airports in the DRC and neighboring countries. One Health has grown to global health prevention with the rate of the global express. The CDC works to prevent outbreaks of Ebola in the US by helping to contain the disease at its source.
From the family Filoviridae, ebolaviruses are suspected to circulate within bat populations, with humans and other animals acting as incidental hosts. The most common source of infection to humans seems to be from handling tissues from infected non-human primates (bushmeat). Once in a human population, the virus rapidly spreads if proper barrier protection (PPE) is not used effectively. The virus can survive in blood and tissues, as well as on contaminated fomites.
Incubation periods range from 2 to 21 days, depending on the dose of virus and health of the individual prior to infection. Often, initial signs present as flu-like symptoms. As the disease progresses, signs progress to high fever, hemorrhagic signs (petechiae and ecchymoses), congested internal organs, and bronchointerstitial pneumonia. Depletion of lymphoid tissues occurs in most cases. A nonpruritic maculopapular rash is common. Vomiting and diarrhea contaminate the areas surrounding the patient and serve as a source of infection to caregivers.
Stop the spread of ebola
Proper treatment is often difficult to obtain, and supportive care remains the only option. In these situations, case fatality can reach 90%. Blood contains the highest amount of virus and serves as the most common route for human-to-human transmission. The virus also exists in nearly all secretions, including saliva, tears, breast milk, semen, feces, and urine.
The good news in the battle against Ebola lies in its susceptibility to common disinfectants, including bleach, aldehydes, 3% acetic acid, ultraviolet light, and heat.
Protect your family
Ebola does not appear to be going away anytime soon. For most Americans, it remains low on our radar. However, if you plan to travel outside the country, or host foreign guests, it moves up the list quickly. Protect yourself and your family by staying informed of affected areas. Good hand hygiene should be part of your daily routine, but more so when traveling. Seek medical care if you or someone in your traveling group feels they have been exposed, or are showing signs.