The Ebola outbreak continues to be a major global concern and in this second article of the series on Ebola virus, we focus on measures taken to control the Ebola virus disease (EVD). The World Health Organisation (WHO) is actively seeking international medical help to treat patients in West Africa and to confine the disease to avoid its further spread.
Prevention of EVD
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with WHO has developed a series of guidelines to help prevent the spread of EVD. The key factors in controlling the disease are: (1) identify patients that are infected with the virus and display symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fever and (2) restrict virus spread in a healthcare setting with locally available resources. In line with these factors, the basic preventive measures summarised in Fig 1 include:
- Reducing the risk of wild-life to human transmission. Avoid contact with Ebola hosts namely fruit bats and apes/monkeys and consuming their raw-meat. If contact is inevitable, care should be taken to wear gloves and protective clothing when handling live animals. Also, animal products should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
- Reducing the risk of human to human transmission by direct or close contact with people displaying Ebola symptoms. Extreme care should be taken to avoid contact with body fluids of Ebola infected patients. Protective clothing including gloves should be worn and hands must be frequently washed using a sanitizer while taking care of patients at home or in a hospital.
- Containing the disease by undertaking quick and safe measures to bury the dead, and identifying individuals who are potentially at risk of getting infected. The identified people should be monitored closely for 21 days (time taken for symptoms to first appear), and infected or those suspected of carrying an infection should be kept separate from healthy individuals. Finally, steps to maintain good hygiene and a clean environment are crucial in curbing the spread of the virus.
- Reducing the risk of human to human transmission in a healthcare system. This is most challenging as the most obvious reason for the virus spreading to other parts of the world. Health care workers travelling to parts of West Africa, the current virus hotspot, to help care and treat the sick are themselves becoming victims of the virus. It is strongly recommended to wear a face mask, gloves, and protective clothing to avoid any splashes or contact with infected material. In addition, laboratory personnel who examine human and animal samples are also expected to be well trained and work wearing protective clothing in an appropriately equipped laboratory.
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