As the Ebola virus continues to spread despite efforts to contain it, we talk with Rachael Jones, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who says greater precautions are needed to stop the disease and better protect frontline healthcare workers. Jones is an expert in infectious disease transmission and respiratory protection at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and she recently co-authored a commentary that urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to outfit all frontline healthcare workers in the battle against Ebola with powered respirators. Jones is joined by Alex Tomich, director of the Infection Prevention and Control Department at Rush University Medical Center, to discuss the Ebola virus and the precautions needed to control the spread of the disease.
Ebola Virus Disease
Ebola virus disease is a severe often fatal illness. Fruit bats are considered a possible natural host of the virus, and outbreaks usually occur in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood, tissues or body fluids of infected people or animals. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines, according to the World Health Organization.
Symptoms: A sudden fever, muscle pain, weakness, headaches, and a sore throat are early symptoms. These are usually followed by vomiting, kidney and liver problems, diarrhea, rashes, and in some cases both internal and external bleeding. Lab findings include low white blood cell and platelet count and elevated liver enzymes. Incubation period is 2 to 21 days. Ebola virus infections can be diagnosed in a lab through several types of tests.
Treatment: Currently, there are no vaccines available for Ebola, although several are being tested and evaluated. Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent, and if an outbreak occurs, the infected person or animal should be quarantined to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Ebola virus patients are usually very dehydrated and require intensive care.
Ebola is plaguing the western coast of Africa, with more than 3,000 confirmed laboratory cases by the CDC as of Sept. 18. New cases have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. While there have been cases confirmed in both Nigeria and Senegal, neither country has reported any new cases since Sept. 5, and Aug. 29, respectively.
In Nigeria, there have been a total of 21 cases, 19 confirmed laboratory cases, and eight deaths, according to the CDC. Senegal reported one travel-associated case.
Touch the red dots in the image below to learn more about the Ebola virus in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
--Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.