Dr. Kent Brantly was drawn to Africa with Samaritan’s Purse, to help the people of Liberia live longer, healthier lives. During his time there, the unimaginable happened, there was an outbreak of Ebola, and he contracted the virus while treating patients with this incurable disease.
Fortunately, Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol (an American aid worker) were given the experimental drug ZMapp and quickly evacuated to the U.S. for further treatment.
The best news possible was announced this week; they have been released from the hospital. In a televised news conference, Dr. Kent Brantly was all smiles, and grateful for the treatment and kindness he has received. So, what is Ebola and what should you know about this deadly virus?
1. The Ebola Virus Or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
The rare, but deadly virus Ebola has been in the headlines for months, but few in the U.S. actually understand what it is, and how it is transmitted. This virus causes both internal and external bleeding while damaging the immune system and vital organs.
The internal storm caused by this virus results in blood not clotting leaving victims to bleed to death. Currently, it is believed that the Ebola virus is fatal in up to 90% of infected individuals. That is why the recent news about the recovery of Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol is such welcomed news.
2. How Ebola Virus Spreads
While Ebola is a virus, like the common cold, the measles, or the flu, fortunately it doesn’t spread as easily or quickly as these everyday maladies. Researchers believe that Ebola spreads through the direct contact with bodily fluids and waste from both humans and infected animals.
In Africa, monkeys, chimps, bats, and other animals carry Ebola, and their spit, feces and other fluids are believed to spread to humans. While some viruses have a fairly short life outside their host, it is believed that Ebola can survive quite some time. This virus can be spread through casual contact with tables, beds, floors, lamps, door handles, and more.
The Ebola virus is not airborne, cannot be spread throughout the water supply, or in properly handled and cooked foods.
3. Signs & Symptoms
Part of the problem with Ebola, is that it presents like so many other diseases and infections. The first signs are much like the flu – high fever, headaches, achy joints and muscles, weakness, lethargy and lack of appetite.
However, as Ebola progresses, individuals start to bleed internally and externally. Common areas of bleeding are gums, nose, eyes, ears, and around fingernails or toenails, while internally, tissues are bleeding as well.
4. Travel Precautions
If you travel for business, and it takes you to Europe, Africa or beyond, it is important to understand that not all countries and cultures practice the same level of hygiene that we do in the western part of the world. It is important to be mindful of your surroundings, and of the people you come into contact with.
Drink water only from sealed bottles; avoid raw fruits and vegetables; clean your hands thoroughly with disinfectants, and avoid touching your face or mouth whenever possible. If you are planning a trip soon, please review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s article “Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever – prevention” for more information on how to protect yourself, and your family.
Until individuals are symptomatic, they are not spreading the disease. The incubation period can be anywhere from 2 days to over a month.
Of course, the best news of all is that the two Americans that have been treated with ZMapp and tender care, are, by all accounts, cured of the Ebola virus.