Ebola

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What is it

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species1. Ebola can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees)1. Ebola viruses are found in several African countries, it was first discovered in 1976 and since then outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa1.

Who is at risk

There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada; as long as precautions are taken, there is a low risk of getting Ebola in a country without an outbreak2.

People most at risk are those in close contact with infected people including2:

  • Hospital or laboratory staff who do not use proper personal protective equipment when caring for Ebola patients
  • Family members caring for Ebola patients

What are the symptoms

Symptoms appear 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus, they include3:

  • Rash
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Hemorrhaging (bleeding from inside and outside the body)

How is it spread

Ebola is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. there are five identified Ebola virus species, four of which are known to cause disease in humans1.

Ebola can be spread through contact with1:

  • Blood, body tissue or fluids from an infected person
  • Medical equipment contaminated with infected body fluids, such as needles
  • Medical personnel in health care settings who do not wear proper protective equipment including masks, gowns and gloves
  • Infected animals including bats, gorillas and monkeys

How is it prevented

There is currently no licensed vaccine for Ebola4.

Travellers to regions where Ebola outbreak has occurred should take the follow precautions4:

  • Avoid direct contact with the bodily fluids of people with Ebola or unknown illnesses including:
    • Urine, blood, saliva
    • Vomit, semen, breast milk, vaginal fluid
  • Avoid direct contact with:
    • Bodies of people who have died of Ebola or unknown illnesses
    • Medical equipment contaminated with blood or bodily fluids
  • Avoid both live and dead wild animals (potential carriers of Ebola) including:
    • Gorillas, monkeys, fruit bats
    • Porcupines, chimpanzees, forest antelope

Health care workers4:

  • Practice strict infection control measures, use personal protective equipment (gowns, masks, gloves, goggles) and ensure isolation of infected individuals
  • Disinfect or dispose of instruments and equipment properly after treating Ebola patients

Returning travelers from a country where there has been Ebola outbreak(s)5:

  • Recommend monitoring your health including measuring your temperature twice daily for 21 days and monitoring for symptoms

How is it treated

There is currently no specific licensed treatment for Ebola. patients are treated for their symptoms, which includes6:

  • Supporting blood pressure and oxygen delivery
  • Ensuring proper fluid and electrolytes levels
  • Strict isolation in an intensive care unit to prevent disease transmission to others

Medical advice is recommended for the onset of symptoms. for further information regarding Ebola, please speak with your healthcare provider.

REFERENCES

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease). (2016). https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/Ebola/about.html
  2. Public Health Agency of Canada. Risks of Ebola virus disease. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/Ebola/risks-Ebola.html
  3. Public Health Agency of Canada. Symptoms of Ebola virus disease. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/Ebola/symptoms-Ebola.html
  4. Public Health Agency of Canada. Prevention of Ebola virus disease. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/Ebola/prevention-Ebola.html
  5. Public Health Agency of Canada. Ebola virus disease self-monitoring instructions for travellers entering Canada (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/Ebola/prevention-Ebola/how-self-monitor-symptoms-Ebola-watch-symptoms-check-your-temperature-21-days-after-you-arrive-canada.html
  6. Public Health Agency of Canada. Treatment of Ebola virus disease (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/Ebola/treatment-Ebola.html