'Is Ebola something that we need to worry about in Ireland?'
Dr Nina Barnes dishes out some life advice.
Question: What exactly is Ebola and is it something that we need to worry about in Ireland? My husband worries a lot about his health and I want some authoratitive information that I can use to allay his fears. Can you help?
Dr. Nina's answer: Nearly 6,000 people have been infected with Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) this year in Africa. The main countries affected are Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The most recent outbreak is the largest recorded.
It is thought that it possibly originated in fruit bats and passed to other animals and then ultimately to humans. It takes 2 to 21 days from the time a person is infected for symptoms to appear. An infected person only becomes contagious when they have symptoms. Those who recover may remain infectious for several weeks after.
The initial symptoms of Ebola are very similar to the flu. You may notice fever, muscle aches and pains, sore throat and a cough. This if followed then by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, damage to kidney and liver function and possibly internal and external bleeding. Some people do manage to recover but this outbreak has been fatal in about 50% of cases.
As EVD is a virus there are no antibiotics or other drugs that can kill it so the main medical treatment of those infected is managing their fever, keeping them hydrated and trying to control any bleeding or damage to the kidneys and liver.
Ebola, although highly contagious can only be passed by direct contact with an infected person's body fluids. This can happen by being in close contact with someone or utensils that have been used by them or to care for them.
This is why travel in and out of countries affected is becoming limited, schools are being closed and large gatherings of people discouraged. Healthcare and aid workers must also wear complete protective gear to avoid exposure.
With proper containment procedures in place it is extremely unlikely that EVD will spread further beyond these borders so the risk in Ireland is currently thankfully very low.
Health & Living