First Case of Ebola Transmitted Outside of West Africa
The first confirmed case of Ebola transmitted outside of West Africa was discovered today. A Spanish nurse, working in a hospital in Madrid, became ill after treating a patient who contracted the virus while completing missionary work in the Ebola-stricken west African nation, Sierra Leone.
The patient, a 69 year old priest, was flown from West Africa back to a hospital designated for Ebola treatment in Madrid. The priest died on September 25 after a battle with the virus. Prior to his illness, the priest served as a medical director of a hospital specializing in treating Ebola in Sierra Leone.
The 44-year-old nurse checked herself into a hospital in a suburb of Madrid after she discovered she had a high fever. Her name has not been released.
Over 30 individuals who had contact with the nurse are currently under surveillance but no-one else is currently under quarantine aside of the nurse. A team is working to make contact with anyone else who might have come into contact with the nurse.
The hospital is unsure who the virus was transmitted as the institution follows strict universal precaution guidelines in addition to utilizing protective gear to prevent contact with bodily fluids. Experts on Ebola, including WHO and the CDC, claim the only way Ebola is transmitted is through direct contact with the body fluids of a living Ebola patient who is showing symptoms, or someone who has died from Ebola.
Signs and Symptoms of Ebola
According to the CDC symptoms of Ebola are as follows:
-Fever (greater than 101.5°F) -Severe headache -Muscle pain -Weakness -Diarrhea -Vomiting -Abdominal (stomach) pain -Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. It should be noted that Ebola patients will NOT test positive for the virus unless they are showing signs and symptoms.
How is Ebola Transmitted?
The Ebola virus is not an "airborne" virus and is actually relatively difficult to transmit. Ebola is spread through direct contact (open sores, mouth, eyes, nose, etc) with:
- blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola - objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus - Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
The CDC claims the virus cannot be transmitted in any other manner. Transmission of the virus can be prevented by using proper protective equipment (gowns, goggles, gloves, etc) and by using universal precautions and avoiding touching any bodily fluids.
How is Ebola Treated?
The treatment of is actually pretty simple and straightforward. Several experimental drugs have been developed and some, like ZMapp, have shown promise but none have been tested through rigorous clinical trials. ZMapp has been used on two American patients and they both survived. The world's current resources on experimental drugs is reportedly exhausted, at current.
For the time being, healthcare professionals are treating Ebola patients with intravenous fluids, balancing electrolytes, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating other infections should they occur.
Current Ebola Outbreak Breakdown
Guinea: Infected - 1,199, Deaths - 739 (62% death rate)
Liberia: Infected - 3,834 , Deaths - 2,069 (54% death rate)
Nigeria: Infected - 20, Deaths - 8 (40% death rate)
Senegal: Infected - 1, Deaths - 0 (0% death rate)
Sierra Leone: Infected - 2,437, Deaths - 623 (26% death rate)
United States: Infected - 1, Deaths - 0 (0% death rate)
Spain: Infected - 1, Deaths - 0 (0% death rate)
Total: Infected - 7,493, Deaths - 3,439 (46% death rate)
*data current from the Center for Disease Control as of October 6, 2014
WHO claims the current reported cases most likely underrepresent the breadth and scope of the current outbreak. Many Ebola patients, in West Africa, refuse treatment due to the impending consequences potentially created by the stigma associated with the virus. In addition, many West Africans hold superstitious beliefs both about the nature of the disease and about the governments' response.
WHO has also warned the current outbreak could reach over 1 million by 2015 if the spread of the virus cannot be mitigated by the health organization interventions.
Sierra Leone has attempted desperate measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. In September, the government ordered a 3 day mandatory quarantine of all citizens by staying in their homes. Read more about the story here.