With the situation relating to Ebola receiving a very high level of media attention, the UKPIPS Medical Advisory Panel has issued to following commentary on the current situation. We hope all readers will find this informative
Ebola is a devastating viral infection currently affecting some of the poorest nations of the world. Poor living conditions, lack of medical facilities and basic protective equipment has contributed to the spread of the epidemic and the high death rate. The virus cannot travel through the air, so only those in close contact such as family members or medical staff are likely to be infected. Ebola is spread by direct contact with the body fluids of infected people or from bodies of those who have died of the infection. For those who are infected, the death rate is 50-70% in Africa.
Q: Which countries are affected?
Affected countries are Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Q: Who is at risk?
Travellers from affected countries who have been in close contact with Ebola victims within the previous 21 days. These include:
Health care workers and family members looking after patients with Ebola.
Mortuary and funeral workers dealing with dead bodies of those who have died from Ebola.
Q: What are the symptoms?
Symptoms – sudden onset high fever, headache, muscle aches, followed by rash, diarrhea, vomiting, sometimes leading to internal bleeding and death.
Q: Who is potentially infectious?
People with Ebola are not infectious until they start showing symptoms such as fever. People in the risk groups listed cannot infect anyone unless they themselves are unwell.
Q: What is the incubation period?
After contact with Ebola, infected people show symptoms of fever within 21 days, most commonly after 8-10 days.
Q: What is the government doing to prevent Ebola here in the UK?
Public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely and have detailed emergency plans. These include early identification and isolation of infected people, quarantine and tracing of people at risk.
Special considerations for people with antibody deficiency
Q: Would my ivig/scig protect me?
No – ivig/scig does not contain any protective antibodies against Ebola.
Q: Am I at increased risk of catching Ebola?
This is unknown. However, the individual chance of catching Ebola is likely to be similar to that of everyone else.
Q: I have antibody deficiency. Am I at increased risk of dying of Ebola?
Also unknown. Overall, the death rate might be lower in the UK where we have better medical facilities, than in West Africa. In general, those with complications from their antibody deficiency, such as bronchiectasis, might be at increased risk of severe disease or death.
Reminder: symptoms of fever and headache are more likely to be caused by flu or another infection than Ebola. If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor or specialist centre, as you may need to start antibiotics or anti-flu medication. Now is the time to get your flu vaccine. Unless advised otherwise by your specialist, you and your family should receive the injection (killed vaccine) not the nasal spray (live vaccine).