Thankfully, the Ebola Virus Disease has not reached the shores of Australia.
Let’s hope, for the sake of our children, it stays that way. If we look at statistics, however, it can be observed that EVD cases are not isolated in places like Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Unsuspecting countries like Spain and the United States have recorded a few cases of the disease within their territories. Nobody is safe, really. There is always that chance of exposure, albeit a miniscule one. So you can never be too careful.
When it comes to deadly diseases, one of the best weapons is knowing them at every angle, especially their causes, symptoms and treatments.
Here’s what you need to know about Ebola.
What is EVD?
A rare but extremely fatal illness caused by ebolaviruses, EVD has killed at least 90% of those who have been infected. An Ebola outbreak in Africa killed at least 10,800 people.
EVD was named after the Ebola River, where the first outbreak happened. It is believed to have been initially acquired through direct physical contact with bats and wild animals like chimpanzees and gorillas.
It causes severe external and internal bleeding due to the drop in levels of blood-clotting cells. Once the disease has spread, it weakens the immune system and causes damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys.
Also known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, EVD can be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids like blood, faeces and urine through broken skin or mucous membranes. Although less likely, it can also be acquired from contaminated materials and surfaces. When a person is severely sick from EVD, it is possible to transmit it from droplets. It has an incubation period of 2-21 days.
How deadly is it? Statistics based on previous cases show only a 1 out of 5 chance of survival after contracting the disease. However, it is likely that this high mortality rate was caused by the lack of health infrastructure in previously affected countries.
Multiple researches have been done regarding the development of cures and vaccines for the disease, but so far, none have been approved.
Early symptoms of EVD resemble to that of influenza, such as headache, fever, joint and muscle pain, sore throat and fatigue. Stomach pain and loss of appetite have also been observed in victims. As the disease progresses, it causes internal and external bleeding. As a result those who have the disease will experience profuse bleeding from the gums, nose, ears and even the eyes. Blood in faeces and vomit has also been observed in a number of cases. The appearance of rashes is also an indicator.
Is Ebola a threat in Australia?
With one of the world’s best health systems, experts assess the risk of Ebola in Australia as minimal. But Australia does not have any Ebola-specific treatments such as the experimental ZMapp medicine, and a vaccine is still under development.
Queensland’s health minister has voiced concerns about the disease reaching Papua New Guinea saying the “porous” border between the two countries has long been a concern in relation to spreading diseases.
The Federal Government announced on October 27, 2014, that all travel to, as well as humanitarian visas from Ebola-affected regions, are banned for the foreseeable future. Since August 9, protocols have been put in place at all entry points into Australia that people entering from west Africa are subject to further questioning by immigration officers.
If deemed necessary, they are put into isolation and questioned further by specialist health officials where they make an assessment whether the person is required to be put under surveillance and under 21-day quarantine.Of 190 returned people from west Africa to NSW, four healthcare workers and two families on humanitarian visas have been put under surveillance.
Each state has a designated hospital where all suspected Ebola cases are to be treated. Paramedics ask all patients with fever and other Ebola-like symptoms whether they have visited west Africa, and if so, they’re required to contact their state’s public health department.
Australia has specialist health officers on stand-by in Darwin to tackle any cases of Ebola, which arise in neighbouring countries such as Papua New Guinea.
Prevention and Cure
Once symptoms have been observed, it is best to report to the nearest medical facility. But as they say, prevention is always better than cure. Here are things you can do to protect your loved ones from EVD.
- EVD can be contracted from contact with infected animals as well as the consumption of their uncooked meat. It is therefore important to use protective clothing when handling them. Also, make sure that animal meat has been cooked thoroughly before consumption.
- Avoid direct physical contact with the bodily fluids of people who exhibit EVD symptoms. The use of protective clothing and thorough handwashing is highly recommended.
- Ebola can be transmitted sexually. Therefore, it is advisable to use protection at all times. Contact with bodily fluid as well as handwashing also helps.
- Maintaining good hygiene and keeping a clean environment reduces the risk of catching EVD and other diseases.