UPSC Notes: Ebola Pandemic

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare and deadly disease most commonly affecting people and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees). The Ebola Pandemic is an important topic coming under various sub-topics such as public health, epidemics, community health management, health facilities, etc. It is a topic that can be cited in essays concerning these or related topics. The role played by the WHO, governments, health departments, health workers and the community at large, are all factors that need to be thought about and prepared for the UPSC exam. They generally come under General Studies 2 of the IAS exam.

The latest Ebola pandemic occurred in West Africa and lasted between March 2014 and January 2016. This was the most serious of all Ebola outbreaks and records a human casualty figure of more than 11000. The Ebola virus disease has a significantly high mortality rate of a little over 70%.

UPSC aspirants can know in detail about the other pandemic and viruses which have hit the various part of the world through the links given below:

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

EVD is also called Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF). It is a viral haemorrhagic fever caused by the Ebola viruses. Humans get infected with the virus when they acquire direct contact with the virus through broken skin, nose, mouth, or with blood, faeces, vomit, or bodily fluids of an infected person. The virus could also be present in semen and urine. People can also get infected when they make contact with contaminated bedding, clothing, etc. through broken skin. It is not an airborne disease. Close contact with an infected person is needed to pass the virus on.

The disease was first described in 1976 after its outbreak in DR Congo and is present in South Sudan. There were generally under 500 cases reported every year. Between 1979 and 1994, there were no cases reported at all.

Candidates can visit the Virus page and know in detail what is a Virus and how it may spread.

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Ebola Symptoms

The symptoms of Ebola include:

  1. Fever
  2. Sore throat
  3. Muscular pain
  4. Headache
  5. Vomiting
  6. Diarrhoea
  7. Rashes
  8. Decreased liver and kidney function

Symptoms start to show from two days to three weeks after contracting the virus. Some people also bleed internally and externally. The fatal rate for this disease is very high, with 25 – 90 % of the affected people dying. Death usually happens because of low blood pressure due to fluid loss and occurs 6 to 16 days after the symptoms appear. People can also die from multiple organ failures.

Important Facts about Ebola

  • The incubation period (the time interval from infection to onset of symptoms) is between 2 and 21 days.
  • People are only infectious once they develop symptoms.
  • Infection results from contact with the blood, secretions or other bodily fluids. There is no evidence of airborne transmission of EVD.
  • People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids contain the virus.
  • Ebola virus can be destroyed by soap, alcohol gel or chlorine solution of a specific concentration.
  • Ebola transmission occurs through direct contact with the blood, secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) or other bodily fluids of infected people, as well as with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing, paper towels) contaminated by these fluids. There is no evidence of airborne transmission of EVD.

Ebola Pandemic – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

West African Ebola virus epidemic

  • The first case in this epidemic (index case) is believed to be a one-year-old boy and was reported to be in a village in Guinea in December 2013. Bats are suspected to be involved in the spread of the virus.
  • By March 2014, Guinea reported 59 deaths due to Ebola. By May, there were 281 cases and 186 fatalities.
  • By Mid-April, the disease hit Liberia and then Sierra Leone. The disease was spreading rapidly in these parts, and a few people were also affected in Nigeria and Mali.
  • The disease was imported to four other countries too, as a result of aid workers travelling, the countries being the USA, Spain, the UK and Senegal. The three major countries affected most were Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
  • By March 2015, there were more than 25000 cases reported and more than 10000 deaths.
  • The epidemics in Nigeria and Senegal were declared over by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in October 2014.
  • Sierra Leone was declared free of the disease in November 2015.
  • Guinea was declared Ebola-free in December 2015.
  • In January 2016, the WHO declared Liberia to be Ebola-free. Liberia was one of the worst affected by this pandemic with a little over 4800 deaths.

Ebola Treatment

As such, there is no treatment for Ebola. In 2016, a vaccine was developed offering 70 – 100% prevention against the disease, called an rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine.

An infected person should be isolated completely. Caregivers should wear full protective gear while handling Ebola patients.

Symptoms of EVD are treated as they appear. When used early, basic interventions can significantly improve the chances of survival. These include:

  • Providing fluids and electrolytes (body salts) through infusion into the vein (intravenously).
  • Offering oxygen therapy to maintain oxygen status.
  • Using medication to support blood pressure, reduce vomiting and diarrhoea and manage fever and pain.
  • Treating other infections if they occur.

WHO declares end to Ebola epidemic

The World Health Organisation declared an end to the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever after no new cases emerged in Liberia.

  • Liberia, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea, was an epicentre of the latest outbreak.
  • There is still an ongoing risk of re-emergence of the disease because of the persistence of the virus in a proportion of survivors.
  • The Ministry of Health is still carrying out Ebola tests on dead bodies before burial and remains on the lookout for any suspicious cases.

To know more about Diseases and their causing agents, aspirants can visit the linked article.

Frequently Asked Questions on Ebola Pandemic

Q 1. Which countries were affected by the Ebola Pandemic?

Ans. The Ebola outbreak happened in West Africa between 2014-2016. Other affected countries included Italy, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Q 2. When was Ebola declared a pandemic?

Ans. The World Health Organisation has declared Ebola a pandemic On March 23, 2014. This was after approximately 50 confirmed cases and close to 30 deaths.

Q 3. What is Ebola Virus Disease?

Ans. EVD is also called Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF). It is a viral haemorrhagic fever caused by the Ebola viruses. Humans get infected with the virus when they acquire direct contact with the virus through broken skin, nose, mouth, or with blood, faeces, vomit, or bodily fluids of an infected person.

Q 4. What are the symptoms of the Ebola Virus?

Ans. Symptoms of the Ebola Virus include fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, muscular pain and decreased liver and kidney function.

Q 5. Is there a vaccine to cure the Ebola pandemic?

Ans. There is no treatment for Ebola. In 2016, a vaccine was developed offering 70-100% prevention against the disease, called an rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine.

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