An outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the West Africa countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierrra Leone has saturated the news media recently. We would like to take this opportunity to provide an overview and update on the subject.
• EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
• Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
• The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population via close person to person contact.
• No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals. Severely ill patients are managed with intensive supportive care.
Epidemics and Geography:
Ebola Virus was first identified in 1976. There have been intermittent outbreaks of serious EVD in central and West African nations since that time. To date, there are no cases of individuals contracting EVD in the U.S. While it does NOT pose a significant threat to the U.S. general population, it is important for healthcare providers to remain alert for signs and symptoms of EVD in individuals with a recent (within 21 days) history of travel to or from the affected countries.
How is the virus transmitted?
The virus transmitted either through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids (ie, sweat, urine, semen, breast milk, etc) of a person with Ebola who is ill and showing symptoms; or through exposure to objects (such as medical equipment) that have been contaminated with infected fluid. Individuals who are not experiencing symptoms are not contagious.
What are the symptoms?
EVD is characterized by sudden onset of fever and malaise accompanied by other non-specific signs and symptoms, such as headache, vomiting, diarrhea, joint and muscle aches, stomach pain and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms may appear from 2 to 21 days after exposure, though 8-10 days is most common incubation interval. The infection often rapidly progresses to bleeding from mucous membranes (gums, rectum, gi tract) and organ failure.
How is EVD treated?
There is no licensed specific treatment or vaccine currently available. Care is directed at supporting vital organ functions until the infection runs its course. Experimental therapies are under investigation and a vaccine is under development.
What is the prognosis of EVD?
EVD is a serious and often fatal disease. The mortality rate has varied in different outbreaks. The mortality rate in the current outbreak is about 55%.
What is the Risk of EVD in the U.S., and how is it contained?
There are no known cases of individuals contracting EVD here in the U.S. However, should a case present, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, like any U.S. hospital, is able to house and treat an Ebola virus patient safely. Physicians and staff are trained to follow the Centers for Disease Control recommended isolation and infection control procedures and precautions to manage the patient, and stop the spread of the disease. We do not expect EVD to cause an epidemic in the US or threaten the general population.
For additional information, we suggest you visit the CDC website.