Contagious Illness and Epidemic

A contagious illness can easily become an epidemic and sometimes catastrophic especially in densely populated areas. When such illnesses strike, the elderly, young children, the poor and expectant mothers top the list of at risk individuals. This is due to weak or compromised immunity that makes it easier for them to contract diseases and illnesses. One of the most contagious and deadly diseases in this era is ebola which has claimed a lot of lives the few times it has emerged. However, some patients succumbed as a result of clinical negligence and therefore there is a lot we could do to ensure the virus does not claim more lives.

More information on clinical negligence


History

The first case of ebola was reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire. The virus was first identified as a possibly new strain of the Marburg virus but it was renamed ebola in 2010 to distinguish the two. It is believed that the virus was initially harboured by animals mainly fruit bats and it was subsequently transmitted from animals to man. The first ever recorded ebola patient was a school teacher called Mabalo Lokelo.


Symptoms

Once someone is infected with the virus, it may take between 2 and 21 days for the symptoms to manifest. During this incubation stage, the patient cannot transmit the disease. At first, the patient may experience symptoms that are more often associated with malaria such as headaches, sore throats, fever, fatigue and muscle pain. If not tested at all or if a poor job is done, it can easily be ruled out as malaria. This kind of clinical negligence may lead to unnecessary fatalities.


Once the illness escalates, the patient will start vomiting and their body temperature can rise up to 39 degrees Celsius. Some patients may suffer due to compromised functions in the kidneys and the liver and bleeding both internally and externally. In addition to this, patients will experience diarrhoea which usually has blood.


Treatment

There is no single drug that has been proven to treat ebola. For those who have been infected, the doctors use a combination of medicine to treat different symptoms. This means that the earlier the virus is detected, the better the chances of treatment and therefore survival of the patient. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines for the virus. However, two potential vaccines are in different stages of testing to determine their safety for use in human beings.


Transmission

Ebola can be transmitted either from an animal to a human being and among people. This is usually through bodily fluids and contact with items used by infected people. It can therefore be transmitted through kissing, sexual intercourse, through clothing and sharp items and sometimes just contact with a sick person. This is why all ebola victims should be isolated immediately after diagnosis and monitored closely after they have been released. Their spouses and family members should also be monitored to ensure they have not been infected.


Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis

Most of the time, when a patient is misdiagnosed, it reduces their chances of survival. This is because as time lapses, the virus affects more body organs and if major organs like the liver and kidneys are affected greatly, the body may have a hard time carrying out important functions which may cause death. This is affected by a number of factors including the type of medical care available to patients.


It is good to note that the ebola virus affects different people differently, something that has been attributed to differences in the genetic makeup. Therefore survival rates after misdiagnosis or delays in diagnosis may also be subjective. There are patients who have been misdiagnosed but luckily survived.