Newspapers throughout the world have been carrying news of the recent outbreak of Ebola. According to the World Health Organization 932 people have been killed thus far, the majority of them in Africa. This disease has taken the lives of at least 100 health care workers trying diligently to bring health back to the infected. These efforts have not been in vain as over 1,700 people have been infected since the outbreak began with around 54 percent of these cases resulting in death.
What you need to know about the Ebola virus.
Ebola primarily occurs in Central and West Africa near the rainforest. Outbreaks generally start when an animal infects a human. This could be in the form of a bite, their feces, secretions, bodily fluids, etc. Fruit bats are notorious for carrying the disease. Once it comes in contact with humans, it is passed person to person. This is not an airborne disease so it cannot spread by simply coughing around another person. There must be some type of fluid exchange for the disease to spread. This can happen via direct or indirect contact with bodily fluids, blood, treating people that are infected, and handling dead bodies.
By understanding how the disease is transmitted, it is easier to avoid becoming infected if you are in an area where an outbreak is occurring. Unfortunately, many of these smaller villages do not have access to this information or basics like clean water which would allow them to live in more sanitary conditions where the risk of infection is reduced.
Once a person becomes sick there are several signs that it could be Ebola. They start to run a high fever, feel weak, headache, muscle pain, and sore throat. These symptoms are very similar to the flu which makes it even harder to identify. Unfortunately, the symptoms do not manifest right away. It can take two to 21 days before a person knows that they are sick. The disease can live inside of a person for 61 days after becoming contaminated, creating additional risk for mass exposure. Very often, people go about their lives not knowing that they could be spreading a deadly disease.
As a doctor and humanitarian, Dr. Dean has traveled the world providing the gift of hearing to those in need. This is one of the many ways that he is using modern medicine to transform lives of individuals and their community. The Ebola virus demands a similar approach. Modern medical care can prevent many people from dying from the disease. Access to basic solutions like IV fluids in a contained hospital wing can save lives and prevent the disease from spreading.
Dr. Dean is also keenly aware of the need to prevent outbreaks in the first place by training local community leaders on how to identify the disease and ensure that infected individuals are quarantined and treated right away. People in West Africa and throughout the world can benefit from receiving education on how to avoid coming in contact with the disease, then understanding what to do when symptoms develop. Humanitarians, like Dr. Dean, can play a critical role in stopping this disease by developing educational and treatment programs then training local leaders. For those fortunate enough to live in the United States, focusing on good hygiene is an easy way to avoid disease like this since they require a person coming in direct or indirect contact with an infected persons bodily fluids.