Three cases of the Ebola Virus Disease have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This simply means that we must not let our guards down; we must learn and remember the precautions we took during the 2014 outbreak of the viral disease .
This is not the time to develop an appetite for bush meat and bad meat ! Before going more into the precautions , what really is the Ebola virus? The Ebola virus causes the Ebola virus disease ( EVD) in humans , with death rates up to 90 per cent. Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks , in Nzara, Sudan , and in Yambuku , Democratic Republic of Congo .
How is it transmitted ?
Ebola infects humans through close contact with any of the following : blood , secretions , organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals . In Africa , infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees , gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys , antelopes and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest .
Ebola then spreads in the community through human – to-human transmission , with infection resulting from direct contact ( through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood , secretions , organs or other bodily fluids of infected people , and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.
A very crucial point to note is that the burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola . Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to two months after recovery from illness .
Healthcare workers treating such patients must wear protective garments . Such workers have frequently been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed EBV. This has occurred through close contact with patients when infection control precautions are not strictly practiced .
How do you suspect infection with EVD ?
The signs of infection with EVD include a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain , headache and sore throat .
Include vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, internal and external bleeding. People are infectious if their blood and secretions contain the virus. Ebola virus was isolated from semen 61 days after onset of illness in a man who was infected in a laboratory. The incubation period, that is the time between infection with the virus and when one shows symptoms , is two to 21 days.
How do you prevent the spread of the disease?
Controlling Ebola Reston Virus ( RESTV) in domestic animals
No animal vaccine against Ebola virus is available . Routine cleaning and disinfection of pig or monkey farms ( with sodium hypochlorite or other detergents ) should be effective in controlling the spread of the virus.
If an outbreak is suspected, the premises should be quarantined immediately . Removal of infected animals , with close supervision of burial or burning of their dead bodies, may be necessary to reduce the risk of animal -to- human transmission . Restricting or banning the movement of animals from infected farms to other areas can reduce the spread of the disease .
In this country the movement of cattle from bordering countries must be controlled. As RESTV outbreaks in pigs and monkeys have been followed by human infections, the establishment of an active animal health surveillance system to detect new cases is essential in providing early warning for veterinary and human public health authorities .
Reducing the risk of Ebola infection in people
In the absence of effective treatment and a human vaccine , raising awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and the protective measures individuals can take is the only way to reduce human infection and death. In Africa, during EVD outbreaks, educational public health messages for risk reduction should focus on several factors:
Reduce the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission by reducing contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys and apes and avoid the consumption of their raw meat . Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing . Animal products ( blood and meat ) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption .
Reduce the risk of human – to-human transmission in the community arising from direct or close contact with infected patients , particularly with their bodily fluids. Close physical contact with Ebola patients should be avoided . Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home . Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital , as well as after taking care of patients at home .
Communities affected by Ebola should inform the population about the nature of the disease and about outbreak containment measures, including burial of the dead . People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried.
Pig farms in Africa can play a role in the spread of infection because of the presence of fruit bats on these farms . Appropriate bio – security measures should be in place to limit infection. For RESTV, educational public health messages should focus on reducing the risk of pig -to- human infection because of unsafe animal husbandry and slaughtering practices , and unsafe consumption of fresh blood , raw milk or animal tissue.
Gloves and other appropriate protective clothing should be worn when handling sick animals or their tissues and when slaughtering animals . In regions where RESTV has been reported in pigs , all animal products ( blood , meat and milk) should be thoroughly cooked before eating .
Recommendation for prevention: Border controls , use of infrared thermographs and our borders are important . Also , avoid raw meat , bush meat and always wash your hands and frequent use of soap and hand sanitisers . Food preparation must observe the highest level of hygiene. You may consider limited hand shake and kissing .