Ebola: Pro­file of a pro­lific killer

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

PARIS: A fact file on the deadly Ebola virus, against which the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said Fri­day a pro­to­type vac­cine could be “up to 100 per­cent ef­fec­tive”.


The worst-ever Ebola out­break started in De­cem­ber 2013 in south­ern Guinea be­fore spread­ing to two neigh­bor­ing west African coun­tries, Liberia and Sierra Leone. That out­break killed more than 11,300 peo­ple out of nearly 29,000 reg­is­tered cases, ac­cord­ing to WHO es­ti­mates. The real fig­ure might be sig­nif­i­cantly higher, how­ever. More than 99 per­cent of vic­tims were in the three na­tions-more than 4,800 in Liberia, more than 2,500 dead in Guinea, and more than 3,900 in Sierra Leone. The WHO de­clared the epi­demic over in Jan­uary this year, but this was fol­lowed by flare-ups in all three coun­tries. Liberia said it was Ebo­lafree in June, prompt­ing the WHO to de­clare the of­fi­cial end of the out­break.


Ebola was first iden­ti­fied in central Africa in 1976. The trop­i­cal virus was named af­ter a river in the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo-then known as Zaire. Four of the virus species are known to cause dis­ease in hu­mans-Zaire, Su­dan, Bundibu­gyo and Tai For­est. The West African out­break was caused by a vari­ant, called Makona, of the Zaire species which has his­tor­i­cally been the most deadly in hu­mans. Be­fore the re­cent West African out­break, Ebola had killed about 1,700 peo­ple in four decades.


The virus’ natural reser­voir an­i­mal is prob­a­bly the bat, which does not it­self fall ill, but can pass the germ on to hu­mans who hunt it for “bush meat.” Other din­ner­time fa­vorites in parts of Africa-chim­panzees, go­ril­las, mon­keys, for­est an­te­lope and por­cu­pines-are also sus­pected of trans­mit­ting Ebola. Among hu­mans, the virus is passed on by con­tact with the blood, body flu­ids, se­cre­tions or or­gans of an in­fected or re­cently de­ceased per­son. This can in­clude touch­ing a sick or dead per­son, and likely also sex­ual in­ter­course. Those in­fected do not be­come con­ta­gious un­til symp­toms ap­pear. They be­come more and more con­ta­gious un­til just af­ter their death, which poses great risks dur­ing fu­ner­als.


Fol­low­ing an in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod of be­tween two and 21 days, Ebola de­vel­ops into a high fever, weak­ness, in­tense mus­cle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat. That is of­ten fol­lowed by vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhea, skin eruptions, kid­ney and liver fail­ure, and in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal bleed­ing.


Af­ter ef­fects have of­ten been ob­served in sur­vivors, in­clud­ing arthri­tis, prob­lems with vi­sion, eye in­flam­ma­tion and hear­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. —AFP

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