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Treatment for Ebola

Ebola is a hemorrhagic disease, characterized by fever and, in the later stages, internal and external bleeding.  It is usually fatal and there is no known cure or immunization. 

Ebola’s recent outbreak has mostly affected west African countries. Among those in the hot zone are: Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports greater than 4,000 fatalities and 8,300 cases of EVD, making this the largest outbreak since it began keeping records.

The difficulty with EVD in western Africa is three-fold:  an inadequate healthcare system; unreliable access to clean water and fear on the part of the patients, preventing them from seeking early treatment, when it would be most effective. 

Is There a Treatment for Ebola?

What kills Ebola virus? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any antiviral medications for use in combating Ebola. The current treatment involves treating the patient’s symptoms and keeping him/her hydrated. The earlier someone receives treatment, the better his/her chances of survival are. Basic medical interventions for Ebola are the same as for other viral infections: 

  • Bring down the fever

  • Treat co-morbid infections

  • Maintain oxygen saturation level

  • Keep blood pressure within a normal range

  • Administer intravenous (IV) fluids and give electrolytes (body salts) as needed. Electrolytes (found in drinks like Gatorade) are given via IV with other IV fluids because patients with EVD often experience diarrhea and vomiting, which makes consuming anything by mouth too difficult; the other reason these are given to the patient is due to the fact that they are losing fluids and electrolytes when they vomit and have diarrhea. Hydration has been found to be very important in treating those with EVD.

In order to recover from EVD, one must have good supportive care and a responsive immune system. Once recovered from Ebola, that patient will have antibodies to that strain of Ebola from anywhere from ten years to a lifetime; however, some patients have recovered from EVD only to develop long-term health concerns, such as joint and eye problems.

What Is the Outcome Following Treatment?

Death can occur in fifty to ninety percent of Ebola cases. Scientists who research Ebola do not yet understand why some patients recover from the disease while others do not; however, it is known that Ebola victims usually have not developed a significant immune response at the time of death.

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