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Ebola Virus Shaking the World

August 17, 2014
Plain English Version

Guinea West Africa EbolaSince March, the Ebola virus has infected more than 1,900 people. The countries most affected are Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. All three countries are in West Africa. More than 1,000 have died.

Many are concerned about its possible spread in the United States. So far, no Ebola cases have been reported. People coming from West Africa are being tested.

People get Ebola from food tainted by the droppings of bats. It also comes from eating bat meat. In Guinea, bat hunting is common. The virus is not airborne, like a flu or SARS. Ebola is spread by direct contact. Most people who get it are friends and relatives taking care of patients who have the infection.

Doctors say they know what to do if the virus is found in the United States. They would use the standard method of infection control. They are confident that would work.

Treatment includes:

  • balancing the patients’ fluids and electrolytes;
  • keeping their oxygen levels up and blood pressure steady; and
  • treating them for any other infections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just approved the use of an untested drug called ZMapp on Ebola patients. Two Americans, who contracted Ebola in Africa have been flown home. They are getting the new treatment.

Ebola symptoms appear about eight to 10 days after exposure. At first, it seems much like the flu. People get headaches, fever, aches and pains. Sometimes there is also a rash. Diarrhea and vomiting follow.

It takes a severe turn in about half the cases. The victims bleed internally. Bleeding does not kill the patient. Blood vessels deep in the body begin to leak fluid. Blood pressure drops. Then the heart, kidney, liver and other organs begin to fail.

Unhappily, the fatality rate is from 50 percent to 90 percent.

Experts say the risk of anyone getting Ebola in the United States is extremely small.

Source: The New York Times August 13, 2014

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