A 54 year old anthropologist who had recently traveled to the Central African Republic has been admitted to the Hospital Donostia for Ebola symptoms. It has not yet been confirmed that she is infected with the virus, but, given that the serious condition she suffers from is compatible with this pathology, all the necessary protocols have been activated to prevent the disease from spreading in the Basque Country.
At the moment there should be no panic, as it is an isolated case. And, although the fact that there are only going to be a few cases may sound like nightmares from the past, the truth is that a case of Ebola was detected in Spain only once and the protocols They helped me stay alone in that.
Ebola, unlike the cause of COVID-19, is characterized by being a very deadly virus, but not extremely contagious. Furthermore, precisely the fact that it is so deadly is what makes it very unskilled at spreading. Patients feel so sick that they do not interact with other people, so it is not as easy to catch it.
For this reason, even in Africa, where it is endemic, most outbreaks in history have involved only a few dozen or, at most, a few hundred cases. There was only one much bigger, between 2014 and 2016when 28,616 people from 10 different countries were infected, including the Spanish nurse Teresa Romero. Even so, it does not hurt to know the disease, to know how it is transmitted and what are the ways to treat it, if there are any. This is the most important thing we need to know about the Ebola virus.
What is the ebola virus?
Actually, Ebola is a genus that includes several viruses from the family Filoviridae. It is named for the Ebola river, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the first cases were detected. in 1976.
Since then it has been discovered that there are at least five species of ebola virus affecting human and non-human primates: Bundibugyo (BDBV), Zaire (ZEBOV), Sudan (SUDV), Reston (RESTV) and Taï Forest (TAFV). The first three are those that affect humans, with Sudan and Zaire being responsible for the majority of outbreaks.
What are your symptoms?
Ebola virus symptoms usually start suddenlycon fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. In this phase it can be confused with other diseases, but then other more specific symptoms begin, such as vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and internal and external bleeding. That is why it is considered a hemorrhagic fever.
These symptoms can appear between 2 and 21 days after contact with the virus. The positive part is that a person is only contagious when they have symptoms.
How is the Ebola virus spread?
When mentioning the spread of the Ebola virus, we must refer to two types. which is produced by zoonosisfrom an animal to humans, and the one that takes place between humans.
It is not entirely clear which is the main host of the Ebola virus in animals, although it is believed that they may be the fruit bats. Contact with the organs, blood or other secretions of this and other animals, such as monkeys or porcupines, can cause passage to humans.
Later, they can infect each other in the same way, through the direct contact with fluids or mucous membranes of the sick, as well as with clothes and objects that have been in contact with them. We have already seen that a person can be contagious from the moment they begin to have symptoms, but they are capable of being so even after death. For this reason, it is not only necessary to take precautions in the family and hospital environment. Also during funerals.
These measures should consist of the use of individual protection elements that act as a barrier to avoid coming into contact with the fluids and mucous membranes of patients or the deceased.
How is it cured?
There is no cure for the Ebola virus.. As with other viruses, more or less severe, it heals on its own. It has a very high mortality, but some people are able to survive without the need for any treatment. Of course, once they do, they can continue to have symptoms such as headache and muscle pain, tiredness, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, vision problems or hearing problemsamong others.
Those symptoms already occur without the virus in the body, so these people are no longer contagious.
As for the Ebola vaccine, there are already some under investigation, but there is still no definitive one. Yes, some patients have been treated with blood plasma from people who have been cured, with the aim that the antibodies reinforce the role of your own immune system. In some patients it has given good results, but it cannot be considered a cure or a vaccine.
We will still have to wait to find out what happens to the Basque patient, but it is good to know all this. After all, we should not be interested in a disease only when it touches us closely.
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