All about Ebola

Jasmine Burke provides an introductory guide to understanding the deadly Ebola disease. 

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‘Is Ebola bad for you’ was listed as one of the 20 dumbest tweets on the topic of the deadly virus.

Other tweets that made the list: ‘Is Ebola a country’ and ‘So does Ebola make you lose weight or do you just die’.

Oh dear…

Sadly, I don’t think these people are joking.

Approximately 0.0001 per cent of the world’s population is currently diagnosed with the Ebola virus, and more than 4000 people have died from it this year alone – mostly across West African nations. Despite the fact these numbers lack the means of a universal epidemic, it hasn’t stopped some people displaying irrational fear and paranoia.

So, what exactly is Ebola, and what does this outbreak mean? For those who are aware of the disease but lack a complete understanding, I present a brief guide to the facts surrounding Ebola.

What is Ebola?
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe and often fatal illness in humans. It is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through direct contact. The current outbreak in West Africa, where the first cases appeared in March this year, is said to be by far the largest and most complex outbreak of EVD since its discovery in 1976. While there are no EVD vaccines just yet, there are potential remedies in the making.

What are the symptoms?
The time period between becoming infected and when symptoms appear can be anywhere between two and 21 days, however the disease is not contagious until the symptoms are present. Symptoms are flu-like initially, and include fever, sore throat, muscle aches and pains and drowsiness. Within a short period of time, extreme nausea along with vomiting and diarrhoea will present themselves. That isn’t the worst part; the virus then attacks the organs until eventually the organs fail due to dehydration and blood loss (both internal and external).

How fatal is Ebola?
According to the World Health Organisation, the average fatality rate was recorded at around 50 per cent but, presently, could be as high as 70 per cent.

So, to answer a stupid tweet: yes, Ebola is bad for you.

That said, there is no need to worry just yet about whether the deadly disease is headed to Australia or whether EVD marks the beginning of World War Z. So far the disease exists mostly in developing countries, exacerbating the problem as these places have limited access to medical care and health infrastructure.

Image: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

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