My constant travel back and forth to Africa has recently sparked some concern. And while Zambia is really far from the outbreak (farther than the entire width of the United States), and my risk of catching this is no greater if I travel to Zambia than Spain- concern about this disease is understandable. This Ebola deal is a freakin’ thing.
As I’m learning about this disease, I want to get you in on this. So that our concern is correctly placed, perspective is right on, and we can actually pray effectively for the people who are affected by this pressing disease.
I have been struck by the realness of this whole thing recently. Maybe having experienced and seen what hospitals and general healthcare can be like in Zambia- and imagining what an outbreak there might be like for the people I know living in these systems. There’s not really a way out. These people can’t just pack up their car and get out of dodge. They can’t just leave their families and lives behind and they don’t have access to different or better healthcare. This is reality. And Ebola is shedding light on what disease can look like in Africa. But what I also keep thinking is that HIV/aids does this every day. Its not as quick to kill. Nor is it okay to talk about openly or does it get credit for taking lives. But this is a crystal clear picture of what incurable disease does in Africa. And its a good thing to pay attention.
Ok, so. Here’s some information about what the heck is the haps with Ebola.
Ebola is a virus that was first discovered in 1976. Ebola got its name as a result of the location of the second ever recorded outbreak. This outbreak was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the village of Yambuku, which is near the Ebola River. This virus is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids of a person infected and showing symptoms. It is not spread through air, water, food or mosquitos.
An individual will start showing symptoms anywhere from 2-21 days from the time of infection. The first symptoms are the sudden onset of a fever, fatigue, muscle pain headache and a sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney or liver function, and both internal and external bleeding.
Though there have been over 20 recorded outbreaks of Ebola in the past 40 years, all of these outbreaks were in sub-saharan Africa. This virus has never before been reported in West Africa- therefore the early cases were diagnosed as other diseases more common to the area. This gave several months for the disease to spread before it was recognized as Ebola. In previous outbreaks of this disease- no more than 280 deaths were ever counted, and in only 6 cases was there more than 100 recorded deaths. The average case fatality rate is around 50%, and rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
As of November 4th, the outbreak in west Africa has recorded 13,592 suspected cases and 5,408 deaths (according to the World Health Organization). However, like many diseases in Africa, the WHO believes that this substantially understates the magnitude of the outbreak with true figures numbering three times as many cases as have been reported.
This outbreak is said to have began in Guinea in December 2013 and then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. These three nations have weak health systems and are challenged with low human resource, medical infrastructure and supplies.
Check out this table below to see where most of the deaths and cases have occurred.
|Liberia||6,776||2,823||7 November 2014|
|Sierra Leone||4,964||1,479||7 November 2014|
|Guinea||1,825||1,096||7 November 2014|
|Nigeria||20||8||outbreak ended 20 October 2014|
|United States||4||1||4 November 2014|
|Mali||1||1||4 November 2014|
|Senegal||1||0||outbreak ended 17 October 2014|
|Spain||1||0||4 November 2014|
|Total||13,592||5,408||as of 7 November 2014|
Here’s a great episode of 60 minutes for more info. 60 minutes episode.
For more information on what Ive shared and where i got most of my information:
WHO article. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/
Wikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_epidemic_in_West_Africa
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abby Phillips is the Program Architect of Poetice International.