Ebola Fact Sheet: Frequently Asked Questions
Ebola, a communicable viral disease, has been causing fear and uncertainty in recent months as it crosses national borders. This piece attempts to furnish answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Ebola.What is Ebola?
Ebola virus disease, formerly known as the Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a contagious affliction that affects humans and some non-human primates such as monkeys. The disease, which is caused by the Ebola virus, was first pinpointed in 1976 and is associated with hemorrhage within the patient's body. No vaccine or immunization exists to protect populations against Ebola at the present time; therefore, medical treatment is primarily comprised of supportive care that addresses complications and symptomatology.
How does a person contract Ebola?
According to the World Health Organization (2012), the natural reservoir of the virus is unknown and it is not always clear how the virus first appears in humans. Exposure to Ebola occurs via direct contact with bodily substances including sweat, blood, fecal matter, urine, tears, saliva, stool, and sputum that came from the body of an individual who is infected with the virus. Moreover, dirty clothing, used linens, objects and furnishings such as mattresses that contain the virus are also considered infectious until disinfected.
In addition, an individual can be exposed to the Ebola virus by consuming meat products from infected animals and through the handling of infected human and animal corpses.
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
The incubation period range is anywhere from two to 21 days; thus, in some cases a person might not display symptoms until a full three weeks has elapsed after the time of initial exposure. The early symptoms, which may be rather vague and nonspecific, include fever, muscle aches, joint pain, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, loose stools, headache, hiccups, sore throat, and a rash that has been said to resemble measles. Late symptoms include hemorrhaging from body orifices and bloody diarrheal episodes.
What is the mortality rate of Ebola?
The mortality rate of Ebola virus disease is considerably high, so it definitely can be lethal. However, the mortality rate seems to vary greatly depending on the source or news outlet. The WHO formulated a Situation Report in September 2014. Although the rate of infections is picking up speed at an alarming rate, the report says the fatality rate is 53% overall, ranging from 64% in Guinea to just 39% in Sierra Leone (Vogel, 2014).
How do we prevent the spread of Ebola?
According to the WHO (2012), as the primary mode of person-to-person transmission is contact with contaminated blood, secretions or body fluids, people who have had close physical contact with patients should be kept under strict surveillance. Be mindful that an individual is infectious only if and when symptoms of Ebola virus disease arise, and if they do occur, the symptomatology will almost always be pressing enough for the person to seek medical care.
Once a person displays any telltale symptoms of Ebola virus disease, he/she should be promptly treated in contact isolation, which appears to be the one of the most effective techniques to lessen the chances of spreading the affliction. However, since many of the earliest symptoms of infection with Ebola virus disease are so vague and nonspecific, catching it early might pose some challenges.
How can we protect ourselves from Ebola?
It is crucial to refrain from coming into direct contact with bodily secretions and fluids from living persons and corpses that are infected with Ebola. We must also avoid direct contact with objects that possibly contain infectious material such as used bedding, soiled clothes, needles, syringes, dirty dishes and eating utensils. Additionally, it is imperative that those who have succumbed to Ebola virus disease are managed while wearing sturdy personal protective equipment (PPE) and buried or cremated as soon as feasibly possible.
How should healthcare facilities prepare for Ebola?
Administrative and managerial personnel at hospitals and other types of healthcare facilities should ensure that all members of staff who perform direct patient care be thoroughly educated and inserviced on Ebola. Procedural skills that may expose the healthcare worker to infectious bodily substances such as venipuncture, toileting, and emptying of suction canisters and urinary collection bags should be performed utilizing strict contact precautions. Any patients who are suspected of being infected with Ebola need to be placed on isolation precautions.
Furthermore, administrative and managerial persons must ensure that their healthcare facilities are equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment since Ebola is transmitted via direct contact with infected body fluids and secretions. All incoming admissions should be screened for the signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease.
Should we be concerned about Ebola?
We definitely should not ignore Ebola due to its lethality and extraordinarily high mortality rate. Conversely, to place the situation in perspective, more people die of the Hepatitis C virus every single year than the Ebola virus disease has killed in an entire four decades. However, HCV is arguably more treatable than Ebola.
World Health Organization. 2012. Frequently Asked Questions on Ebola Virus Disease. Retrieved October 17, 2014 from 4 4 (not found) | WHO | Regional Office for Africa
Vogel, G. (2014, September 8). How Deadly Is Ebola? Statistical Challenges May Be Inflating Survival Rate. Science Daily. Retrieved October 17, 2014 from How deadly is Ebola? Statistical challenges may be inflating survival rate | Science | AAASLast edit by Joe V on Dec 3, '14
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,032; Likes: 69,312
CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psychOct 18, '14817nurse - I found these articles informative relative to ebola vaccines...
Ebola: Fast-tracking treatments | The EconomistOct 18, '14Quote from RNfasterThe links were informative. Thank you for posting them!817nurse - I found these articles informative relative to ebola vaccines...
Long Quest for Ebola Vaccine Slowed by Science, Ethics, Politics
Ebola: Fast-tracking treatments | The Economist
Quote from 817nurseI will keep quiet on this issue until a later date because my personal views might or might not rub others the wrong way.Ebola has really been around since '76? I wonder why they have not found a cure by now.Oct 18, '14Answers all the questions I was wondering about when this I guess you can call "outbreak" occurred. Thanks!Oct 18, '14Quote from auchiepieTo be honest, I was learning new information as I collected the information to write it.Answers all the questions I was wondering about when this I guess you can call "outbreak" occurred. Thanks!
My unsubstantiated suspicion is that the natural reservoir for the Ebola virus is some animal that is uncommonly hunted for its meat. Since the outbreaks have been sporadic over the past four decades, I don't think the particular animal is one of the common staples pursued by hunters.Oct 18, '14Oct 21, '14Quote from chadrn65Thank you for the informative website link. I am almost certain that bush meat is the natural reservoir for Ebola virus. If I had to make a conjecture, I would speculate it originally came from bat meat.
Then again, I am only speculating.Oct 21, '14Quote from TheCommuterYou are quite welcome. I too feel it has stemmed from the fruit bat.Thank you for the informative website link. I am almost certain that bush meat is the natural reservoir for Ebola virus. If I had to make a conjecture, I would speculate it originally came from bat meat.
Then again, I am only speculating.