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Toni van der Berg
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Ebola outbreak – the scary truth

04 April 2014, 15:12
Doctors work quickly to remove the infected body of one of the Ebola virus’ victims.
Dread diseases. We generally associate this term with the awful reality of cancer. However, the past two weeks on the African continent have been nothing short of scary. Ebola, the incurable, devastating, painful haemorrhagic fever outbreak, has taken hold of the Western side of our continent. To date, 83 people have succumbed to the disease across three countries. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have all confirmed cases of the virus since last week, resulting in widespread panic. Saudi Arabia has issued a statement saying that they will deny anyone from the aforementioned nations entry into the country, and Senegal, just north of Guinea, has closed its borders completely, illustrating just how dreaded this disease really is.
So, what do we need to know about the Ebola virus? How is it spread, and what are the symptoms? The tricky thing when it comes to Ebola is that it is highly contagious. There is no true, medical way of limiting the spread of disease. The only way to isolate the disease is to isolate the carriers, and anyone treating them needs to be dressed head-to-toe in protective gear. The  symptoms, which at first appear as nothing more than a cold or influenza, include but are not limited to:
- Fever - Muscle pain - Headaches - Sore throats - Rash - Red eyes - Chest pains - Difficulty breathing
The deadliest of all symptoms, however, is severe bleeding. Not all bleeding caused by the Ebola virus is visible. While about 30% of cases report heavy nosebleeds, for example, most patients experience internal bleeding, such as that of the gastrointestinal tract.
You can be helping somebody by getting them a juice, or a glass of cold water, or whatever he wants because you know really he has very little chance to survive, and then less than an hour later, he is dead.” – Naoufel Dridi, Doctors Without Borders.
In areas with weak medical infrastructures, where the majority of citizens don’t belong to a reputable medical aid scheme, an outbreak of Ebola can be devastating. While Guinea is one such country, there has been some concern about how the disease spread to certain areas of the country. The affected towns and cities are considerable distances apart, sparking a new wave of worry. How did it spread? While the virus is highly contagious, one has to come into contact with a carrier in order to contract it. The World Health Organisation has expressed concern at this fact, leading the Guinean Government to warn citizens against eating monkey, chimpanzee and other primates’ meat. The only two known species to carry Ebola are humans and primates, a fact that has ignited fear that it may have originated from a food supplier.
Given the fact that the Ebola virus is undoubtedly spreading, the World Health Organisation has stressed the importance of everyone knowing the facts concerning it. It is estimated that in humans, the disease has a mortality rate of roughly 25 – 90%. Doctors from the global organisation Doctors Without Borders have been working endlessly to keep the virus as contained as possible. They aim to prevent further contamination and to make the current victims as comfortable as possible in what could very well be their last moments.
There are currently five known Ebola viruses, all named after the cities in which they were discovered:

Reston Ebolavirus

This strain was discovered in Reston, Virginia, and was traced back to crab-eating Macaques. 

Sudan Ebolavirus

This strain was discovered in what is now known as South Sudan in 1976. It is not thought to affect any animals, and the original disease carrier is still unknown.

Zaire Ebolavirus

The virus with the highest mortality rate, this strain was discovered in Zaire in August 1976. Recently, however, monkeys infected with this strain were successfully treated and cured.

Côte d'Ivoire Ebolavirus

In 1994, this strain was discovered in the Tai Forest of the Ivory Coast. The original carriers are thought to be a troop of wild chimpanzees.

Bundibugyo EbolavirusDiscovered in Uganda in 2007, this strain has a mortality rate of 34%. The original outbreak of this strain resulted in 39 deaths and lasted for approximately three months.

The harsh reality of the West African outbreak is that the strain concerned is the Zaire Ebolavirus – the deadliest one. However, the Doctors Without Borders, together with the World Health Organisation, are confident that within a short space of time, the outbreak will be contained. Now that it is more or less known where the disease is and which families are affected by it, it will become far easier to isolate.
Image credits:,-11.3580296,3z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0xf01b321bcce953f:0xe8737bcbd75a2df6

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