The largest outbreak in history of Ebola is going on now in Africa. Any chance of surviving Ebola largely hinges upon early access to medical care. Patients must contact a doctor very soon when they start feeling symptoms such as fever, headache, and joint and muscle pain in order to get the slightest chance of survival. The long-term effects of Ebola have not been well studied, and doctors will likely learn a lot more about the disease’s aftermath from the most recent outbreak in West Africa.
With many people currently infected and being treated for Ebola the survivors are allowing us to learn the common after effects of the virus. The “post-Ebola syndrome” tends to include aches, extreme fatigue and many visual problems. Recent survivors are also at risk for arthralgia, a type of joint and bone pain that can feel similar to arthritis. Many of these symptoms may partially result from the body’s release of immune system chemicals called cytokines. These chemicals fight the disease, but can make people feel sick.
Dehydration, low blood pressure and nutrition problems that are experienced during an Ebola infection, can also injure a person’s muscles and nerves and take time to recover. Another well known group of side effects is the virus often persists in semen and breast milk and can still be transmitted for up to three months to significant others and children, which, to many, is a concern.
In the most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, about 50 percent of survivors have reported visual problems. Complications with eyes and vision is often caused by an inflammatory condition known as uveitis. Uveitis, or inflammation of the inner workings of the eye, can cause excessive tearing, eye sensitivity and inflammation and even blindness. Four out of every twenty survivors of the 1995 Ebola outbreak that occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo developed eye pain or vision problems after having the virus, but the symptoms improved after many topical treatments and steroids.
Although it can take months, most patients who have survived do fully recover from the virus. No one knows exactly why the survivors experience these symptoms. They wonder whether they are caused by the disease or the treatment of the disease, or possibly the heavy disinfection that the patient goes through.
Is there anything patients can do to avoid these long term effects?
Because there isn’t a vaccine for Ebola, how can someone prevent the virus?
Is a vaccine possible for Ebola?