I have recently had a few patients in my practice ask me about the Ebola virus. Due to this fact as well as all the news coverage and worldwide concern about the Ebola virus, I thought that it would be a good time to review it.
The Ebola virus belongs to a family of viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers. As the illness progresses it causes severe bleeding/hemorrhaging, organ failure and often death. The Ebola virus was first identified in Africa decades ago.
Interestingly, the Ebola virus lives in an animal host. Humans can contract the virus by working with infected animals. For example people have contracted the virus from butchering or eating infected animals.
The Ebola is transmitted from human to human through contact with body fluids. Infected people generally are not contagious until symptoms appear. Often, family members are infected as they care for sick relatives or prepare the dead for burial.Medical personnel must take proper precautions when working with an infected patient.
The incubation period for the Ebola virus is five to 10 days from first contact. The signs and symptoms of Ebola usually start suddenly.
Early symptoms include fever, severe headache, chills, joint and muscle pain and general body weakness. These symptoms are common to many harmless illnesses such as the common cold or flu.
However, as the Ebola infection worsens, symptoms typically become increasingly more severe. These symptoms may include bloody diarrhea, red eyes, chest or stomach pain, internal bleeding or bleeding from the eyes, nose or ears.
A high percentage of those infected with the Ebola virus die due to complications such as organ failure because of severe bleeding. The virus is so deadly because it is able to interfere with the immune system’s ability to fight the infection.
For the lucky few that do survive, recovery is a slow and often painful process that can take months.
At this time, there is no proven antiviral medication that is used to treat an Ebola infection. However, researchers are working diligently to find a vaccine. Presently, treatment usually consists of replenishing fluids, replacing lost blood and providing oxygen if needed.
The good news is that the risk of contracting the Ebola virus in North America is very low. In fact, the chief medical officer of Canada recently said, “I want to take this opportunity to remind Canadians that the Ebola virus does not spread easily from person to person. Ebola is spread through direct contact with an individual with symptoms; it is not spread through casual contact, it is not like the flu. Canada is well prepared with a number of systems in place to identify and prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases like Ebola, such as working closely with our international partners to gather and assess information and administering the Quarantine Act at all points of entry into Canada.”
As you can see, the Ebola virus is not something that we have to worry too much about in Canada.
However, it is always a good idea to practice good hygiene like proper hand washing especially with cold and flu season around the corner.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.