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Ebola is a rare and deadly disease that can cause sickness in both humans and non-human primates such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees. The disease is caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species (Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, or Tai Forest virus).
It's spread by direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with
- blood or body fluids (such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola,
- objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus, and
- infected fruit bats or primates (apes and monkeys).
Ebola is not spread through the air, by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats.
There is no approved vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, and many people who get the disease die. The 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is the largest in history.
Signs and symptomsEdit
Signs of Ebola include fever and symptoms such severe headache, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. A person infected with Ebola can’t spread the disease until symptoms appear.
The following measures to prevent Ebola can be taken in areas with ongoing Ebola outbreaks:
- Avoid contact with blood and body fluids (such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen).
- Avoid direct contact with dead bodies, including participating in funeral or burial rituals.
- Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
- Avoid contact with animals (such as bats or monkeys) or with raw or undercooked meat.
- Do not eat or handle bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food).
- Practice careful hygiene, such as frequent hand washing with soap and water or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- If working in a healthcare setting in an area with Ebola, wear recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) and use proper infection control and decontamination measures.
While traveling in or after visiting areas with Ebola, seek medical care immediately if you develop a fever of 38°C (100.4°F) or above) or other symptoms such as severe headache, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising. Getting care early is your best chance to get better. Limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else.
No approved vaccine or medicine is available for Ebola. Symptoms and complications of Ebola are treated as they appear. The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival:
- Providing intravenous fluids (IV) and balancing electrolytes (body salts).
- Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure.
- Treating other infections if they occur.
Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It is not known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola. Some people who have recovered from Ebola have developed long-term complications, such as joint and vision problems.
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