Ebola Virus Outbreak - What You Need To Know

10th, October 2014

Private GP with the 3fivetwo Group, Dr Roger Brown tells us what we need to know about the ebola virus outbreak including travel information for those visiting any of the affected countries.

Private GP with the 3fivetwo Group, Dr Roger Brown tells us what we need to know about the ebola virus outbreak including travel information for those visiting any of the affected countries. 

3fivetwo Group

Anyone who has been watching or listening to the news in the past 4-5 months cannot fail to have been shocked by the outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa. It is still rampant in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. We have also had the worry of a confirmed case of the virus in a UK Nurse who was helping in the humanitarian crisis brought about by this outbreak in an already destitute part of West Africa. It is very worrying and we should not minimise the cost of this very virulent bug. There have already been more than 4,032 deaths (as of 8th October 2014 – World Health Organisation). What is a little more worrying is that the outbreak appears to be accelerating according to the World Health Organisation – Alert and Response. There have been a few isolated confirmed cases in neighbouring countries and one in the UK, all of whom had been in one of the endemic countries.

Ebola Virus disease (EVD) is a viral haemorrhagic condition which is caused by a Filovirus. This is an RNA virus. There are several other viral haemorrhagic fevers caused by other RNA viruses, and all are pretty virulent and often fatal. Filoviruses cause a degree of immunosuppression, and for that reason are very difficult to treat. This group of viral conditions is typically found in Central Africa, sporadically and usually over a relatively short period. They are very infectious and attract a very high mortality rate – anything from 50-90% mortality. There is no known cure. This is the first time that EVD has been in Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia, and is the largest and most sustained outbreak on record. The origin of EVD is not known and it is passed readily from human to human through body fluids.  In the third world, poor sanitation and poor conditions in hospitals, where these patients are being treated, contribute to the very high death rates.

The early symptoms are relatively vague, and resemble many other viral conditions e.g. fever, headache, muscle aches, and red eyes. It is only when the pains and fever increase, diarrhoea and vomiting ensues and is followed by unexplained bleeding or bruising that the diagnosis is suspected. On day 5 there is a typical rash that appears. Virtually every system in the body can become involved, and almost any part of the body can begin to haemorrhage.  Weight loss, dehydration, and organ failure soon follow.

The mainstay of treatment is isolation of the patient and support with intravenous fluids and blood products like whole blood or platelets. There is no licensed product for the treatment of EVD, but an experimental drug presently being used is showing very promising results, including the case of the British nurse who contracted the virus when working with the very ill in the midst of this outbreak.

It is extremely unlikely that any cases will be seen in Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom as a whole, but Doctors and nurses have been appraised of the latest information and advice on spotting cases and managing them promptly and efficiently to increase the likelihood of successful treatment and survival.

If you, or someone you know presents with symptoms which give cause for concern, and have been in an endemic area in the past 4-21 days, it is advisable to contact the emergency medical services promptly either through the GP surgery or the out of hours medical services. The local medical effort is being co-ordinated by Dr Michael McBride the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland through the department of Health, Social services and Public safety.

For those of you planning to travel to West Africa on holiday, on a mercy mission or on business and would like more advice on this outbreak and how to avoid contracting this very serious virus, please arrange to speak with one of our experienced travel advice nurses at the 3fivetwo Travel Clinic. It should be noted that the World Health Organisation has advised that only essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone should now be undertaken due to the severity of the risk of this present Ebola outbreak.  Our nurses will help you to prepare for any essential travel to the area however if it is essential.

The 3fivetwo Travel Clinic is a specialised clinic focused on providing advice and vaccination for anyone travelling to countries where they may be at risk of infection. If you are travelling abroad and would like to find out what vaccinations are required, please call 0845 60 06 352 to speak to a member of our team or visit the 3fivetwo Travel Clinic page on our site and fill out the online questionnaire. A travel nurse will contact you shortly after your form is submitted.   

To access the Travel Clinic page, click here.

To follow the latest news and updates on the Ebola outbreak, please visit the World Health Organisation by clicking here.

Call today on 0845 60 06 352 or click here to find out everything you need to before travelling abroad.

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