Warning: This article contains graphic images at the very end that may not be safe for work, to be viewed around children, or for those with a weak stomach.
West Africa has become ground zero in 2014 for the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in its history, with at least 481 confirmed deaths and 219 treated infections, yet little is being said about the three outbreaks in animals discovered in the United States.
First, what exactly is Ebola, and why is it an ungodly terrifying virus? Check out the basics from The National Post and thank your lucky stars you’re not in West Africa right now.
- At the development stage of Ebola virus disease (EVD), patients have inflammation of the throat and mucous membranes of the eyes (conjunctivitis), abdominal pains and vomiting.
- When the infection attacks, it causes sever damage to the skin. Small white blisters develop along with red spots referred to as maculopapular rash. These spots develop into bruises as the skin becomes pulpy in texture. Rips randomly appear, causing blood to pour out. The skin is so weak it easily tears with any movement of the patient.
- The surface of the tongue becomes a brilliant red and eventually sloughs off. It may even be spat out or swallowed.
- The virus is known to be systemic, which means the virus attacks every tissue and organ of the body except the skeletal muscles and bones. The virus is also characterized by hemorrhaging and blood clotting.
- It also causes blood clots in the blood stream. These clots tend to get stuck in the blood vessels, which in turn causes the red spots on the skin. The close also slow down blood supply to most organs of the body, such as the lungs, brain, liver, intestines, kidneys, testicles and breasts. All these organs become severely damaged, and eventually stop functioning.
- Because of the many devastating effects on the body, death may be caused by shock, renal failure or loss of blood.
An outbreak of the current magnitude in West Africa has not been experienced since 2000 when at least 224 deaths were recorded and 201 patients were treated for the virus. The fatality rate in 2000 was approximately 53%, which is significantly lower than the current death rate in West Africa that sits at 62%.
Transmission of the virus starts when an infected animal comes into contact with a human, who then spreads into the general population through saliva, semen, or blood.
The disease is first acquired by a population when a person comes into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal such as a monkey or fruit bat. Fruit bats are believed to carry and spread the disease without being affected by it. Once infection occurs, the disease may be spread from one person to another. Men who survive may be able to transmit the disease sexually for nearly two months. To make the diagnosis, typically other diseases with similar symptoms such as malaria, cholera and other viral hemorrhagic fever are excluded. The blood may then be tested for either antibodies to the virus, the viral DNA, or the virus itself to confirm the diagnosis.
Now, why should anyone in North America be concerned at all with the current outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa? If you factor in the fact that the World Health Organization has documented three separate cases of a nonlethal form of Ebola in the US in 2014, and the propensity of the human desire to travel easily using modern technology and countless modes of transportation, this outbreak should not be considered just an “African problem.”
The current Ebola outbreak is affecting western Africa, a region of the world that seems so far and distant to most people. The problem is that with modern forms of transportation the ability of a contagious disease to spread are far greater than they ever were in the past. With the largest Ebola outbreak in history currently underway, health officials are saying that it’s important that every possible measure is taken to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. This means that travel restrictions may be necessary. This also means that the people who live in areas that are afflicted by this disease need to be educated on how to prevent its spread. While the chances of a global Ebola outbreak may seem remote, experts say, the fact that the possibility exists that Ebola may spread to the U.S. should be enough of a threat to force more drastic actions to prevent it.
And there’s this too, which is at least one other reason Ebola should scare the ever-loving crap out of you.