How Ebola spreads and its safety tips

Nurses wearing protective suits escort a man infected with the Ebola virus to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. [Doso/AFP]
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) formerly known as Ebola Haemorrhagic fever is a dreaded disease. It seems rare but very fatal when contracted. According to the World Health Organization, EVD has one of the highest fatality rates.

“The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks,” WHO notes on its website.

With no specific cure, WHO alongside other health institutions like Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend being conversant with symptoms, and observing safety tips as some preventive measures.

Below are some of the Ebola symptoms as noted by WHO. The sudden symptoms are like the following:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Intense body weakness

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These are preceded by other more advanced symptoms like:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rash
  • Symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function
  • In some cases, both internal and external bleeding (for example, oozing from the gums, or blood in the stools).
  • Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
There are safety tips recommended by WHO in case of an outbreak or noted cases, such may encompass:

  • Avoiding direct contacts with body fluids of person or persons suspected or having Ebola.
  • Wearing protective materials such as gloves and masks in case one has to handle suspected or confirmed Ebola patients.
  • Burying immediately persons who have succumbed to the disease. This must only be done by trained burial personnel.
  • Washing hands thoroughly with water and soup after touching person suspected or confirmed to be having EVD.
Ebola virus is found in fluid and this alters sexual practices of couples or patients infected by the disease. WHO therefore states the following as safe sex practices to avert its spread:

· All Ebola survivors and their sexual partners should receive counselling to ensure safer sexual practices until their semen has twice tested negative. Survivors should be provided with condoms.

· Male Ebola survivors should be offered semen testing at 3 months after onset of disease, and then, for those who test positive, every month thereafter until their semen tests negative for virus twice by RT-PCR, with an interval of one week between tests.

· Ebola survivors and their sexual partners should either:

  • abstain from all types of sex, or
  • observe safer sex through correct and consistent condom use until their semen has twice tested negative.
· Having tested negative, survivors can safely resume normal sexual practices without fear of Ebola virus transmission.

Treatment

On the treatment of the EVD, WHO says that there are some remedies such as rehydration to improve survival, though there are no cut-out drugs for it.

It notes: “There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. However, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated.”

It also says that a vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, had been tried in Guinea in 2015 and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2018-2019. They both yielded positive results when the EVD struck the countries.

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