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Why Ebola Differs From Other Viruses

Why Ebola Differs From Other Viruses


The Ebola Virus Disease is the enemy knocking at the door of many West African countries and its effects are fast spreading.

Unlike other viruses, such as the Hepatitis A, B,C, which can stay in the body fluids of an infected person for 15 years without any symptoms, the Ebola virus, which symptoms include bleeding from the mouth and anus, can kill its victims within days.

A professor of Epidemiology and Community Health Sci­ence, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Tanimola Akande, describes the Ebola virus, which is ravaging Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and has killed a nurse in Nigeria, as the biggest health challenge facing the sub region at present.

Akande says that its mode of transmission is a major reason why it is deadlier than most viruses.

He says, “That Ebola has no cure is not the reason why it is deadly.HIV also has no cure, yet it does not kill all its victims, if it is properly managed. Ebola is deadlier because it is easy to contract; it is in all the body fluids of an infected individual as its infection can be through saliva, blood, sweat, sperm, excreta, body tissue. It can also be contracted by touching the surface an infected person has touched.”

“Also, the natural host for Ebola is fruit bats, chimpanzees and other forest animals that many eat daily in different parts of the country. You can get it just by coming in contact with the blood of an infected animal. Any virus that can be contracted through food has the potential to wipe off many lives.”

The physician, who says that Ebola virus has very tricky symptoms, which often mimic that of common illness, such as malaria, dengue, lassa and typhoid fever, notes that many health workers may have already come in contact with an infected patient without knowing it.

He adds, “When a patient comes to your hospital and presents you with symptoms, such as fever, headache, general body pain, you are likely not to wear gloves or biohazards suits before treating the patient. That is the tricky part. You are infected before you know it is Ebola.”

To contain the transmission of the disease, Akande urges Nigerians to stop eating bush meat, as well as to wash their hands and fruits regularly before eating.

He also advises health workers to wear protective kits always while attending to their patients.

Akande states, “We have been talking about HIV/AIDS, but Ebola is deadlier than HIV/AIDS. People who have HIV live for years if they take their drugs but any contact with an infected Ebola person is almost a death sentence because the virus has no vaccines, and no drugs. The best one can get is only palliative management”.

Ebola is the nightmare virus. It is feared as the second coming of the plagues of the 1400s. Why is this one virus so much more deadly than other viruses? Simply put, experts list four reasons why everyone must watch out for this virus.

Low survival rates

The chance of survival is almost zero, especially in Africa. It kills 90 per cent of those infected with the virus. Death is certain if the patient starts bleeding. Bleeding, of course, is its “trademark”.

From a medical point, any one that contracts this disease should be isolated –to wait for death! It is sad! It kills faster than AIDS, and in an equally dramatic way. Because of its mode of transmission, you cannot bury dead patients in the usual way — patients, dead or alive, are absolutely avoided! Dead bodies are equally infectious.

It is almost incurable.

The problem is that there is no drug yet for treatment or vaccine for prevention. Four different viruses cause this disease. At least, we have some drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, to help them live longer and better. The treatment offered for Ebola Virus Disease is for the person to die better and more peacefully. The vaccines we have can only prevent monkeys and mice from the disease! Antivirals do not work.

It is highly contagious

HIV/AIDS requires blood transmission or intimate contact for transmission; this disease requires contact with body. Transmission is by coming in contact with body fluids from diarrhea, vomitting, and bleeding. Doctors and medical staff attending to the patients wear protective kits from head to toe, making them look like astronauts heading for the moon! HIV is highest among commercial sex workers and gays; the people with the highest risk of Ebola Viral Disease are medical workers, their families, and their friends. Hunters that encounter monkeys and bats, and marketers of bush-meats should be careful.

No definite way to protect yourself

There is ABC of HIV/AIDS prevention. There are ways of preventing malaria. But preventing Ebola Virus Disease is not specific or clear-cut. You are advised to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid contact with infected people (and their secretions and blood), and avoid contact with objects contaminated by infected people. Prevention is by hygiene!






Source: The Punch


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