Western Africa has has fast become a busy and thriving business aviation hub, there are a large number of operations based in this region. With the most severe recorded outbreak of the Ebola virus becoming pandemic in Western Africa and the virus spreading to further countries in the region we take a look at what at this deadly virus and the present situation and how crews can keep themselves best protected during this current crisis.
The current outbreak began in February 2014 in Guinea Western Africa. It has since spread beyond Guineas borders to Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Nigeria. In the last week a private hospital in Lagos was quarantined due to the death of a Liberian patient, with a confirmed case of Ebola. It is the most severe outbreak of the virus recorded, so far there are a suspected 1323 cases and 729 deaths reported. Liberia has closed it’s borders to neighboring countries, with the exception of major entry points and has introduced rigorous testing and procedures in an attempt to curb the rapid spread of the virus.
What is Ebola
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is an extreme virus that can be fatal among humans. It was first discovered in 1976 and named after the Ebola River near Yambuko, Zaire, where one of the first ever outbreaks was recorded. In Africa, infection has been recorded from handling infected primates, fruit bats, forest antelope and porcupines found sick or dead in the bush, according to the WHO.
Ebola has spread to humans from wild animals and spreads in the human population from human-to-human transmission. The major issue is there is no known reservoir for the virus (it’s natural host). It is considered to originate from native fruit bats. However, it is still not understood exactly how the virus has moved from animals to humans. What is known, it is not a respiratory virus, and transmission is likely from close contact with infected bodily fluids or the blood of a victim, hence the likelihood of large numbers of cases in African hospitals and medical centres. You would need to have contact with blood, body fluids, or have somebody coughing in your face, the virus would potentially be transferred to a persons skin and then, from them touching their mouth or nose. The infective dose required is extremely low just a small amount of the virus cause illness.
The early symptoms of the virus are flu like, include sudden fever, headaches, extreme weakness, joint and muscle pain and lack of appetite, (common universal symptoms for many other common ailments) Further symptoms include vomiting, Diarrhea, stomach pain, a rash and both internal and external bleeding – often from the eyes, nose or mouth.
There is no known treatment or vaccine for the Ebola Virus, other than keeping patients hydrated and stable. The mortality rates range from 60 – 90%, although with this particular outbreak mortality rates have lowered to 60 % and recovery for those that do has been very quick.
What can we do?
- Only essential travel to the region is advised.
- If you believe you may have come into contact with an infected person seek immediate medical advice.
- If you have recently travelled to the region and are experiencing any of the early symptoms it is advisable to seek immediate medical advice.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and hot water,
- Consider carrying and using an alcohol based hand gel with a 60 % + alcohol content
- If staying in the region ensure any meats consumed are thoroughly cooked
- Avoid meat and foods purchased in local food markets
- Ensure you know the origins of any meat consumed to avoid bush meat.