UK P&I Briefing - Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak – UK P&I Club Briefing

1. What is Ebola?

Despite the increasing prevalence of Ebola in the three presently listed high risk countries in West Africa (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia), Ebola remains a rare disease with a low risk of transmission from one person to another, if the necessary precautions are taken.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the disease was first identified in 1976. If contracted, Ebola is a severe and often fatal illness, with a death rate in humans of up to 90%.

Presently, there is no vaccine for Ebola and no specific treatment for the disease exists, only treatment for the associated symptoms. It is believed that the disease originates in fruit bats and can infect most primates. As a result, outbreaks often start in remote jungle areas of West Africa and in their local communities, rather than urban centres.

2. How is it transmitted?

Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of any infected person or animal. Anyone with broken or damaged skin will be more at risk and they should ensure that these areas of their body are well protected when entering high risk areas.

Whilst precautions should be taken at all times when the risk of Ebola is present, the disease is not an airborne virus passed from person to person simply by proximity.

3. What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Ebola include: sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

The incubation period, or the interval from infection to the onset of symptoms, is from 2 to 21 days. Patients become contagious once they begin to show symptoms, and are not contagious during the incubation period.

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