Causes of Ebola and facts behind the sporadic killer
Ebola fever is the most threatening disease yet in Africa with its reputation already causing a headache for most East African countries as authorities scamper to keep the disease at bay ever since it resurfaced in Uganda about a week ago.
So far, no diagnosis has indicated the disease having entered Kenya but two cases in Eldoret and Siaya a few days ago have made headlines only to return a negative diagnosis for the deadly contagious disease.
According to Public Health Minister Beth Mugo, the disease has been contained in Western Uganda where it was first reported but not before claiming the lives of 16 and endangering thousands more.
“My ministry has taken precautionary measures in order to ensure the disease does not spread into Kenya,” said Beth Mugo.
Currently, all the people crossing the border from Uganda into Kenya are carefully screened for the disease before being cleared to enter the country.
Ebola is a highly contagious disease which spreads from one person to another through close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. According to the Kenya Red Cross, there are five identified subtypes of Ebola virus.
Four of the five have caused disease in humans with high case fatality ratio (25–90%): Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, Ebola- Ivory Coast and Ebola-Bundibugyo. The fifth, Ebola-Reston, has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.
Known as the Ebola haemorrhagic fever, the origins of the disease have never been ascertained despite the fact that it has surfaced in six African countries.
It is however hypothesized that the disease is likely caused by a virus that resides in animal hosts in the African rain forests.
Confirmed cases of Ebola HF have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Uganda and the Republic of the Congo.
Scientists have thus far ascertained that the disease which was first reported in 1976 is suffered by humans and other primates such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees.
It has been a tasking job for medical personnel to keep it at bay since it appears sporadically in different geographic locations and has claimed their lives in initial attempts to make a diagnosis having no known cure.
Laboratory evidence suggests that bats could be the carriers of the disease after it was established that the mammals do not die on exposure to the virus.
The infection of human cases with Ebola virus through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, and forest antelopes – both dead and alive – has been documented in Côte d’Ivoire, the Republic of Congo and Gabon. The transmission of the Ebola Reston strain through the handling of cynomolgus monkeys has also been reported.
The virus is retransmitted by direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected persons.
“Ebola is characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is often followed by abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings show low counts of white blood cells and platelets as well as elevated liver enzymes,” reads a report by the Kenya Red Cross.
The incubation period of the disease is 2- 21 days and it is recommended that people diagnosed with this disease should be quarantined and strict barrier nursing techniques implemented in their care.
Download the Full Fact Sheet here! Compiled by The Kenya Red Cross.