Originally published September 30 2014
Learning the symptoms of Ebola and how to avoid it could save your life
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) At least 3,500 people have been infected and more than 1,900 have died in West Africa, in the worst Ebola outbreak ever seen. With the news media speculating about whether Ebola could establish itself in the United States, here's what you need to know.
Ebola virus infections cause death in 50 to 90 percent of cases. There is currently no treatment or cure for the infection, although some non-pharmaceutical treatments can boost the body's natural ability to fight off the disease.
In addition to its high mortality rate, Ebola has health experts concerned, because its possible routes of transmission are still unclear. Although Ebola is known to spread via bodily fluids such as blood, vomit and diarrhea, it remains unclear to what extent more casual contact can spread the disease. Researchers are also unsure of how long a body remains contagious after death, or if a person is contagious after they have recovered enough to stop showing symptoms.
Early treatment is essentialWithout knowing exactly how the disease spreads, public health workers have more difficulty containing it. As the disease continues to spread across Africa, some workers have raised worries that a single intercontinental plane flight could establish the disease in Asia, Europe or the Americas.
Fortunately, scientists agree that people who have contracted Ebola but not yet begun showing symptoms are not particularly contagious. The most contagious stage of the disease is the one in which the patient is sickest, and least likely to travel.
It is also unclear exactly where Ebola comes from, although it is known to also infect animals that are regularly eaten as "bush meat" in many parts of Africa, including antelope, porcupines, bats, monkeys and apes.
Because the disease appears to spread so aggressively and can kill patients so quickly, health officials emphasize that early detection is essential. People in areas suffering from Ebola outbreaks or who have recently traveled to such areas are advised to immediately report symptoms including fever, diarrhea, headache, joint and muscle ache, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain and lack of appetite. Less common symptoms include cough, sore throat, hiccups, rash, red eyes, chest pain and difficulty breathing or swallowing.
The most severe form of the disease, which occurs in 50 to 60 percent of cases, includes hemorrhagic fever: bleeding inside or even outside the body. However, accounts of blood pouring from bodily openings are sensationalized.
Natural immunity is keyEven in severe cases, very early treatment can dramatically increase a patient's odds of survival. Most Ebola fatalities are actually caused by the effects of vomiting, diarrhea or high fever, not bleeding. Early treatment with saline solution can help stabilize the body and give it time to fight off the infection.
In addition, early detection can help stem the spread of the disease through measures such as quarantine. Such measures prevented the spread of the only case of Ebola exiting Africa via plane travel, in a Swiss zoologist who had returned to Europe after contracting the disease from a chimpanzee carcass in 1994. The zoologist recovered after two weeks.
"Outbreaks can be stopped with good infection control and with understanding by people who have been in contact with infected cases that they have to be responsible," said David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology and head
of global health security at Britain's Royal Institute of International
Of course, the best thing you can do is prevent infection in the first place, by avoiding areas with Ebola outbreaks and refraining from the consumption of bush meat. If you are already in an area with an outbreak, health officials recommend frequent hand washing and limiting contact with other people or dead bodies, particularly those who may be infected.
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