Ebola virus- not an unfamiliar name, yet do we really know what we are dealing with? It is a rare and severe viral disorder (often fatal) that was first noted in 1976 in a village near the banks of the river Ebola from which it derives its name. For most of us, Ebola is a problem that we overlook as a disease that plagues the far-off land of Africa. In other words, not our problem. But the disease has had several outbreaks, the largest of which occurred between 2014 and 2016 and the most recent in September 2022.
1. Culprits Behind Disruption:
Since we have by now become quite familiar with the COVID-19 virus, which has entirely redefined our lives, the whole merry-go-round of virus variations, even within a single group, has become common knowledge. In a similar vein, the Ebola virus disease is caused by a group of viruses within the genus Ebolavirus. This virus affects humans and nonhuman primates (including gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys). There are about six types of viruses under this group, of which four have caused the disease in humans.
2. Modus Operandi:
Although it is rare and has fortunately been largely contained every time there is an outbreak, it is quite a dilemma, given the associated issues – a mortality rate of 50 %, no known cure, and the lack of approved vaccines. The virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear. The disease is transmitted to humans from animals and later spreads via human-to-human transmission.
3. Victims of the Dictator:
The Ebola virus leaves no stone unturned; it is not only a problem for humans but also for other primates. Among humans, it was first reported in Africa, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most breakouts since 1976 have been in African countries such as Guinea, Uganda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In 2022, having finally tired of cross-country visits, Ebola came full circle, affecting Congo again, as also Uganda. There have even been isolated cases in the United Kingdom, Spain, and the United States of America.
4. Watch for the Warning Signs:
Even if you live in an area that is not associated with Ebola, it is always better to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Symptoms typically take about two to 21 days to be expressed, with initial symptoms such as fever, aches, and pain, which then progress to diarrhea and vomiting. Yes, the signs are not strikingly different from regular flu, but one must keep in mind that recovery from Ebola depends on clinical care and the patient’s immunity. So, there is no harm in being cautious.
5. Current Outbreak:
The latest outbreak of Ebola occurred in September 2022 in central Uganda. Sudan virus (SUDV) is believed to be the cause of the current outbreak. The Ugandan President has announced a three-week lockdown to shut the doors to these culprits. Since human-to-human contact is a proven mode of disease transmission, it is imperative that strict restrictions be placed to prevent a disaster.
Ebola is like that harbinger of bad news that puts in the rare appearance to deliver a healthy dose of fear, disappears, and then pops up again when you least expect it. In the event of yet another outbreak, let us not remain ignorant of this potentially fatal disease. The onus is on us to be prepared, so gear up on the ammo!