Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ebola Epidemic and the rest of us


Take a look at this picture with focus on the histogram below it. This is why the world is concerned. I am especially wondering how the virus migrated from its first sighted locations to West Africa without wrecking havoc on the way. Surely, the research community have so much on their hands.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

Genus Ebolavirus is 1 of 3 members of the Filoviridae family (filovirus), along with genus Marburgvirus and genus Cuevavirus. Genus Ebolavirus comprises 5 distinct species:

Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV)
Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV)
Reston ebolavirus (RESTV)
Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV)
Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV).
BDBV, EBOV, and SUDV have been associated with large EVD outbreaks in Africa, whereas RESTV and TAFV have not. The RESTV species, found in Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, can infect humans, but no illness or death in humans from this species has been reported to date.

Although non-human primates have been a source of infection for humans, they are not thought to be the reservoir but rather an accidental host like human beings. Since 1994, Ebola outbreaks from the EBOV and TAFV species have been observed in chimpanzees and gorillas.

RESTV has caused severe EVD outbreaks in macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) farmed in Philippines and detected in monkeys imported into the USA in 1989, 1990 and 1996, and in monkeys imported to Italy from Philippines in 1992.

Since 2008, RESTV viruses have been detected during several outbreaks of a deadly disease in pigs in People’s Republic of China and Philippines. Asymptomatic infection in pigs has been reported and experimental inoculations have shown that RESTV cannot cause disease in pigs.

Although non-human primates have been a source of infection for humans, they are not thought to be the reservoir but rather an accidental host like human beings. Since 1994, Ebola outbreaks from the EBOV and TAFV species have been observed in chimpanzees and gorillas.

RESTV has caused severe EVD outbreaks in macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) farmed in Philippines and detected in monkeys imported into the USA in 1989, 1990 and 1996, and in monkeys imported to Italy from Philippines in 1992.

Since 2008, RESTV viruses have been detected during several outbreaks of a deadly disease in pigs in People’s Republic of China and Philippines. Asymptomatic infection in pigs has been reported and experimental inoculations have shown that RESTV cannot cause disease in pigs.

Prevention and control

Controlling Reston ebolavirus in domestic animals
No animal vaccine against RESTV is available. Routine cleaning and disinfection of pig or monkey farms (with sodium hypochlorite or other detergents) should be effective in inactivating the virus.

If an outbreak is suspected, the premises should be quarantined immediately. Culling of infected animals, with close supervision of burial or incineration of carcasses, may be necessary to reduce the risk of animal-to-human transmission. Restricting or banning the movement of animals from infected farms to other areas can reduce the spread of the disease.

As RESTV outbreaks in pigs and monkeys have preceded human infections, the establishment of an active animal health surveillance system to detect new cases is essential in providing early warning for veterinary and human public health authorities.

Reducing the risk of Ebola infection in people
In the absence of effective treatment and a human vaccine, raising awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and the protective measures individuals can take is the only way to reduce human infection and death.

In Africa, during EVD outbreaks, educational public health messages for risk reduction should focus on several factors:

Reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community arising from direct or close contact with infected patients, particularly with their bodily fluids. Close physical contact with Ebola patients should be avoided. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home.
Communities affected by Ebola should inform the population about the nature of the disease and about outbreak containment measures, including burial of the dead. People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried.
Pig farms in Africa can play a role in the amplification of infection because of the presence of fruit bats on these farms. Appropriate biosecurity measures should be in place to limit transmission. For RESTV, educational public health messages should focus on reducing the risk of pig-to-human transmission as a result of unsafe animal husbandry and slaughtering practices, and unsafe consumption of fresh blood, raw milk or animal tissue. Gloves and other appropriate protective clothing should be worn when handling sick animals or their tissues and when slaughtering animals. In regions where RESTV has been reported in pigs, all animal products (blood, meat and milk) should be thoroughly cooked before eating.

Controlling infection in health-care settings
Human-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus is primarily associated with direct or indirect contact with blood and body fluids. Transmission to health-care workers has been reported when appropriate infection control measures have not been observed.

It is not always possible to identify patients with EBV early because initial symptoms may be non-specific. For this reason, it is important that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, the use of personal protective equipment (according to the risk of splashes or other contact with infected materials), safe injection practices and safe burial practices.

Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply, in addition to standard precautions, other infection control measures to avoid any exposure to the patient’s blood and body fluids and direct unprotected contact with the possibly contaminated environment. When in close contact (within 1 metre) of patients with EBV, health-care workers should wear face protection (a face shield or a medical mask and goggles), a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves (sterile gloves for some procedures).

Laboratory workers are also at risk. Samples taken from suspected human and animal Ebola cases for diagnosis should be handled by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories.

Info source: WHO

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