With over 1 000 people infected, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is said to be the deadliest outbreak in history!
Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that Ebola could spread to other countries, the world has been on high alert. In South Africa, the Department of Health assures us that there is no need to panic. “Our surveillance activities are extremely effective,” said Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaldi.
However, if you are travelling to or returning from infected areas, here are five ways to protect yourself from the virus…
1. Recognise the symptoms
“Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear,” explained Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Symptoms include intense weakness, muscle pain, sudden fever, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, lack of appetite, kidney and liver failure and internal bleeding.
The Ebola virus can be contracted by physical contact with bodily fluids of an infected person . This included contact with mucous, semen, saliva, sweat, vomit, stools or blood.
2. Be aware that people who have recovered may still be infectious
Although the virus is fatal in as many as 90 per cent of cases, those who recover must exercise caution for at least two months as they may still be infectious.
Men who have recovered from the disease may still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery from illness, warns the WHO.
3. Avoid physical contact with deceased Ebola victims
Ebola has also spread to people who have come into physical contact with the bodies of people who died from the virus. The WHO advises that people who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried.
4. Seek medical attention fast
People who have reason to believe that they have been infected should seek medical attention immediately and be isolated from the general public.
Most people who become infected with Ebola are those who live with and care for people who already have the disease and are showing symptoms.
All health care workers should follow infection control precautions by wearing face masks, gloves and long-sleeved gowns to shield themselves when treating patients. They should also take extra precautions with the safe disposal of needles and syringes.
5. Avoid contact with and the eating of bush meat
Ebola is thought to infect humans after close contact with the bodily fluids of infected animals.
According to the WHO, Ebola infection in Africa has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest.
For this reason, people should avoid eating and handling bush meat. If an outbreak is suspected on a pig or monkey farm, the WHO recommends immediate quarantine of the premises followed by a supervised culling and burial or incineration of the infected animals.