The outbreak of Ebolavirus Disease (EVD) was confirmed in March 2014 in Guinea, West Africa. The Index case was a 2 yr old Guinea girl who contracted the disease in December 2013.It has become the most severe outbreak of the disease since its discovery in 1976 with a mortality rate approaching 70%. The first recorded nosocomial outbreak in Zaire had a higher mortality rate as it began with reuse of syringes that were washed after giving malarial treatments. As of 19th October 2014, there have been 4877 deaths reported, with the disease infecting almost 10000 people. This rate will climb in West Africa.
The viral reservoir is deemed to be from fruit bats and the index case of the first human infection was identified close to the Ebola River (presently in Democratic Republic of Congo). A highly infectious disease, Ebola [a filo virus akin to Marburg-causing hemorrhagic fever and septic shock] is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from a symptomatic/ infected person. Healthcare workers should be aware that filo viruses have been known to be aerosoled so if you receive a tap on the shoulder to help out, here or overseas, please bear this in mind. The disease is characterised by a sudden onset of fever, muscle pain, fatigue, headaches and a sore throat. It then progresses into excessive vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes with the onset of internal and external bleeding, visible on the gums, eyes, nose and stools. Patients succumb to the illness through dehydration and multiple organ failure.
Risk and Public Health Concern
Though the current epidemic of Ebola has had an alarmingly high mortality rate, spread and fatalities have been confined mostly to the Western African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Tragically many healthcare workers have also been affected by the disease in the course of their work, highlighting that preparedness and training for infection control measures are still the biggest set-back in the fight against this illness. At ground zero of this disease, poor health systems have contributed to the staggering numbers of infected people, but the few cases of the disease spreading in Western countries have also shown the gaps in the preparedness of first-world countries in dealing with Ebola.
What does this mean for us in Australia?
The Australian Department of Health (DOH) has deemed the risk of an Ebola outbreak extremely low. There are different cultures in place as well in Australia that will limit the family spread of the disease. Nonetheless, vigilance and having a preparedness strategy to deal with Ebola in Australia is extremely crucial in ensuring that we contain the spread of this devastating illness.
Where can we get current information on Ebola in Australia from?
The DOH website has extensive information for all Australians including travellers, clinicians and General Practitioners. For more information please visit http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-ebola.htm