As approximately 45,000 Indians live in the Ebola-affected West African countries that took nearly 900 lives to date, a relatively simple question swirls around a common Indian’s head. Are we ready to handle the deadly epidemic, if it’s imported to India?
The variety of virus that is fueling the current outbreak is Zaire ebola virus, the most deadly one of the five species within the genus Ebola virus. Ebola virus disease (also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) initially presents flu-like symptoms, including an acute fever, joint and muscle cramps, extreme weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, throat pain and headaches, which later on takes a serious turn to impair both kidneys and liver and often internal and/or external bleeding, with a fatality rate up to 50 to 90%.
The first outbreak was spotted in the year 1976 in Yambuku and nearby areas. The latest ongoing flare-up started a few weeks ago in West African country Guinea also hit other neighboring countries, including Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, claiming nearly 932 lives out of a total of 1711 suspected cases, amounting to 55% of fatality rate. To further exacerbate the situation, presently there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for this outrageous disease. But specialists observe that the patient’s chance of recovery would greatly improve with treatment in the early course of the disease.
The treatment mainly consists of isolating the infected individuals to further reduce the spread and providing supportive measures such as oral or intravenous rehydration, nutrition, administering drugs to prevent/treat secondary infections, pain management, and maintaining adequate oxygen levels, etc.
The incubation period (time between exposure to infection and the first onset of symptoms) of Ebola is anywhere between 2 to 21 days. In a recent development, two American health care workers who contracted the epidemic were flown back to America from West Africa in an “air ambulance” and are being treated with a trial medication called ZMapp, produced by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc., in an isolation room at Emory University Hospital, Atlanta.
Ebola is a disease that is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids, secretions, blood, or organs of Ebola-infected individuals or animals. This life-threatening virus is thought to be spread first from close contact with the infected animals, including fruit bats, chimpanzees, forest antelopes, porcupines, pigs, etc. And fruit bats are observed to be the natural carriers of this virus.
We’re taking necessary precautions:
Dr. Harsh Vardhan Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, urged Indians in a statement in Parliament addressing the concerns over Ebola outbreak to postpone all the inessential travels to the West African countries.
“As a matter of abundant precaution, however, we would be obtaining the details of travelers originating or transiting from deadly Ebola virus affected countries to India from the concerned Airlines and our Missions and tracking these persons after their arrival in India, up to their final destination in the country” he further added.
He quips that these travelers would be tracked by the health surveillance system for a minimum of four weeks. He also directed the officials to prepare isolation rooms to treat the patients, in case if any symptoms are identified. He instructed them to ensure protective gear readily available for the doctors and health workers to avoid acquiring the disease. He insisted that the government would take actions to raise awareness among the public about this ailment through both print and digital media.