Friday, September 19, 2014

Ebola: What You Need to Know

In recent weeks, we have seen many reports on the Ebola epidemic.  Mostly, this has been due to the fact that American aid workers were infected and brought back to the US for treatment. What seemed like something that only happened in a remote area was suddenly thrust into Atlanta’s own CDC/Emory Hospital.  This left many of us wondering whether or not we should be concerned for our own safety.
Here are a few things that are important to know. The first Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks of Ebola among humans have appeared sporadically in Africa.  Ebola viruses are now found in several African countries.  Ebola is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).


  • Fever (greater than 101.5°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus, although 8-10 days is most common.

Some who become sick with Ebola are able to recover. Others, who die, usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus. We don’t yet know why this is.


Although it is not certain, it is believed that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.

Once in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways. This is through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with: 
  • a sick person's blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen)
  • objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected body fluids
  • infected animals

Who is at risk?

  • Healthcare workers
    This is when hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves. Instruments must be properly sterilized and stored.

  • Family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients
    This is because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids.

  • Romantic partners of an infected or otherwise high individual risk 


  • All cases of human illness or death have occurred in Africa (with the exception of several laboratory contamination cases: one in England and two in Russia)
  • No cases have been reported in the United States
  • In 2014, two U.S. healthcare workers who were infected with Ebola virus in Liberia were transported to a hospital in the United States.

Past Ebola Outbreaks

Past Ebola outbreaks have occurred in the following countries:
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  • Gabon
  • South Sudan
  • Ivory Coast
  • Uganda
  • Republic of the Congo (ROC)
  • South Africa

Current Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

The current (2014) Ebola outbreak is occurring in the following West African countries:
  • Guinea
  • Liberia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Nigeria

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Respiratory Illness Sending More Kids to the ER

At least 14 states are reporting a "marked increase" in the number of patients -- mostly children and teens -- admitted to the hospital with respiratory distress or needing intensive care for respiratory symptoms.

Having said this, in the scope of the big picture, there is no reason for a panic. The spread so far has been not very large, and in general as its coming from West to East, it seems to be dissipating.
The concern is both the increased number of patients affected and the severity of the illness. Many present with severe refractory wheezing, requiring continuous albuterol treatment and oxygen supplementation, and some patients need either noninvasive ventilation or full-scale mechanical ventilation.

The true extent of the outbreak is not clear. But, there’s also a lot of mild disease out there that goes unreported.

What is causing this illness?
Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. However, most people are only mildly symptomatic.

What are the symptoms?
Mild symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • runny nose 
  • sneezing 
  • cough 
  • body and muscle aches 

This is what most otherwise healthy people might experience.
Children who were severely ill additionally had:

  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing

*Many of these children had asthma or a history of wheezing.

How does the virus spread?

EV-D68 can be found in an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum.

EV-D68 likely spreads via coughs, sneezes, or touching a contaminated surface.

Who is at risk?
Generally, infants, children, and teenagers.  That’s because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to these viruses.

*People with a history of asthma and allergies are more at risk for more severe forms of the illness.

How is it treated?

Since it is a virus, there is no need to treat with antibiotics.

Treating symptoms, just as with a cold or flu, with over-the-counter remedies is adequate.

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