No! We are not talking about another type of HIV/AIDS! And, sorry, it’s not new; it’s just not common, and most people have not heard about it. It is called Ebola Virus Disease! As at the time of writing this article, it is killing people in Liberia and Guinea, and over 83 people are reported dead. Sadly, this time, it is the worst form of the disease we have ever seen.

#1: It is extremely deadly.

And the chance of survival is almost zero, especially in Africa. And death is almost certain if the patient starts bleeding, which is a “trademark” of this disease. From a medical point, any one that contracts this disease should be isolated –to wait for death! It is sad! It kills faster than AIDS, and in an equally dramatic way. And because of the mode of transmission, you can not bury dead patients in the usual way — patients, dead or alive, are absolutely avoided! Dead bodies are equally infectious.

#2: It is almost incurable.

The problem is that there’s no drug for treatment or vaccine for prevention yet. And this disease is caused by 4 different viruses. At least we have some drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, to help them live longer and better. The treatment we offer for Ebola Virus Disease is for the person to die better and more peacefully–just supportive. The vaccines we have can only prevent monkeys and mice from the disease! We are working on vaccines for humans. Antivirals do not work.

#3: It is easily contagious.

HIV/AIDS requires blood transmission or sexual contact for transmission; this disease requires contact with body fluids. Transmission is by coming in contact with body fluids from diarrhea, vomitting, and bleeding. Doctors and medical staffs attending to the patients were protective wears from head to toe, making them look like astronauts heading for the moon! HIV is highest among commercial sex workers and gays; the people with the highest risk of this Ebola Viral Disease are medical workers, their families, and their friends. Hunters that come in contact with monkeys and bats, and marketers of bush-meats should be careful.

#4: It’s symptoms are deceptive.

If you experience fever, headache, body pains, body weakness, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomitting, and abdominal pain, you may be thinking of malaria and typhoid fever. But it also could be Ebola Virus Disease. It also causes cough, sore throat, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, and red eye–like common cold! It is so deceptive! But the specific symptom is bleeding — inside (internal bleeding) and outside the body (through ears, nose, anus, vagina, and under the skin). So watch out for bleeding from everywhere!

#5: No definite way to protect yourself.

There’s ABC of HIV/AIDS prevention. There are ways of preventing malaria. But preventing Ebola Virus Disease is not specific or clear-cut. You are advised to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid contact with infected people (and their secretions and blood), and avoid contact with objects contaminated by infected people. Prevention is by hygiene!

Let us pray–may this epidemic stop!


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Dr. ‘Malik Haruna King
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