What you need to know about Ebola
Following an outbreak of Ebola in the Ugandan town of Mubende, health authorities in the Kenyan are on high alert.
Here are a few things you need to know about Ebola.
What is Ebola?
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a deadly disease which mostly affects people and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). It is caused by an infection with a group of viruses within the genus Ebolavirus:
It is caused by an infection with a group of viruses within the genus Ebolavirus:
• Ebola virus (species Zaire ebolavirus)
• Sudan virus (species Sudan ebolavirus)
• Taï Forest virus (species Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus)
• Bundibugyo virus (species Bundibugyo ebolavirus)
• Reston virus (species Reston ebolavirus)
• Bombali virus (species Bombali ebolavirus)
Of these, only four (Ebola, Sudan, Taï Forest, and Bundibugyo viruses) have caused disease in people.
Why is this outbreak so serious?
According to health experts there is a bigger risk this time round compared to previous outbreak cycles because the strain called the Sudan Ebola virus is new and unconnected to any other outbreak. It seems to be from a forest in Uganda.
Dr Ahmed Kalebi, a consultant pathologist explained that the virus’ new nature is that it spreads insidiously before revealing itself. At the moment, there is no effective vaccine against the Ebola-Sudan strain as well as treatment. The virus also has a higher death rate compared to the coronavirus.
He futher noted that the case fatality rate for Sudan Ebola species is, on average, 40 per cent to 60 per cent and ranges from 25 per cent to 90 per cent.
According to Dr Kalebi, the central region of Uganda is densely populated and the area affected is on a transport corridor, meaning that it can easily and rapidly spread within and outside Uganda.
Is there a vaccine?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV (called Ervebo®) on December 19, 2019. This is the first FDA-approved vaccine for Ebola.
This vaccine is given as a single dose vaccine and has been found to be safe and protective against Zaire ebolavirus, which has caused the largest and deadliest Ebola outbreaks to date.
However, the current outbreak has been caused by the Sudan strain of Ebola, for which there is no approved vaccine.
How does Ebola spread?
Scientists think people are initially infected with Ebola virus through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or nonhuman primate. This is called a spillover event. After that, the virus spreads from person to person, potentially affecting a large number of people.
• The virus spreads through direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:
• Blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, amniotic fluid, and semen) of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola virus disease (EVD).
• Objects (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment) contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick with or has died from EVD.
• Infected fruit bats or nonhuman primates (such as apes and monkeys).
• Semen from a man who recovered from EVD (through oral, vaginal, or anal sex). The virus can remain in certain body fluids (including semen) of a patient who has recovered from EVD, even if they no longer have symptoms of severe illness. There is no evidence that Ebola can be spread through sex or other contact with vaginal fluids from a woman who has had Ebola.
What precautions can be taken?
• When living in or traveling to a region where Ebola virus is potentially present, there are a number of ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of EVD.
• Avoid contact with blood and body fluids (such as urine, feces, saliva, sweat, vomit, breast milk, amniotic fluid, semen, and vaginal fluids) of people who are sick.
• Avoid contact with semen from a man who has recovered from EVD, until testing shows that the virus is gone from his semen.
• Avoid contact with items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
• Avoid funeral or burial practices that involve touching the body of someone who died from EVD or suspect EVD.
• Avoid contact with bats, forest antelopes, and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys and chimpanzees) blood, fluids, or raw meat prepared from these or unknown animals (bushmeat).