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Watch & Wait: Ebola

In early August 2014, the World Health Organisation declared it a ‘global health emergency’

In most of the regions where cases have been reported, mortality rates sit at more than 50%.

Fatality rates can reach 90%. Let’s look at that statistic from another angle – of every 10 people infected, potentially only one will survive.

And there is no cure.

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First reported in Guinea in February 2014, the Ebola virus now looms large over Africa’s Western region. This is now the worst Ebola outbreak in history. And the facts tell you that Ebola is no joke.
However, as well as the disease utilising the much-improved benefit of 21st century travel to spread from region-to-region, with cases even beginning to be reported in different continents, the trajectory of the disease is seemingly being spread further by riding upon the vehicle of fear and rumour. 24 hour news agencies, unreliable blogs and social-media mash-ups have contributed to distorting the true nature of the outbreak. As serious as Ebola is, they haven’t helped by their scaremongering of the masses with altered stats and false reports. If I had a pound for every time I heard it announced on Twitter or Facebook that Ebola has arrived in Ghana…

 

So what are the facts?

Formerly known as ‘Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever’, the Ebola Virus Disease is introduced into the human population via contact with infected animals – fruit bats are the natural homes of Ebola.

Ebola is then shared around by human-to-human transmission by direct contact through broken skin with infected human bodily fluids or indirect contact with environments which have been contaminated with such fluid (WHO). As such, great care must be taken in even burying Ebola victims, as direct contact with the infected deceased can be a vehicle for transmission. Men who have made a recovery from infection are still able to transmit the virus via semen for up to SEVEN WEEKS after recovery!

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Only supportive treatment to manage symptoms, such as rehydrating those who have lost fluid volume via vomiting or diarrhoea, is available. Today, no potential cure has successfully made the jump from the blackboard and laboratory tables to the treatment rooms to be available for use.

With an incubation period of almost 3 weeks, you will not know straightaway if you have been infected. Trust me, once symptoms begin to manifest, you will know about it.

Initial flu-like symptoms such as muscle pain, weakness, headache & sore throat, fast give way to more prominent and devastating symptoms such as pronounced vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and sometimes both internal AND external bleeding. This blood loss invariably leads to death.

The prospect of an outbreak in Ghana is one which is understandably provoking much anxiety amongst our community. Ghana is doing its best to prepare for an outbreak by building 3 isolation centres where infected patients will be kept and cared for, away from the general population.

The government is also planning to run simulations at these isolation centres to help medical staff run through scenarios and to bridge the technical gaps which may affect the success of Ghana’s strategies to fight Ebola. The government has split Ghana into three zones – Northern, Southern and Central – and each zone will have its own single isolation centre. Where it can be easy to lose heads and lose composure, Ghana has rather quietly set its house in order with a clear plan of action – just in case…

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Ebola is a horrible phenomenon which has unfortunately reared its head in an era which makes the virus, and the rumours which surround it, easier to spread than ever, and therefore more difficult to control in equal measure. However, Ghana has a plan. All we can do is be prepared, and wait. And focus on the facts. The rumours will continue to travel faster than the virus ever will. All we can do is watch, and wait.

Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)