As if the Middle East hasn’t already had problems with serious infectous diseases, such as Mid East Respiritory Syndrome (MERS), an even more deadly virus, Ebola, may now be on its way there as well. Ebola is one of the world’s worst virus scourges and is now on the verge of becoming an international pandemic, according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials.
The virus, which originated in West Africa and has a 64% death rate, could be spreading from the three African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon where it has until now been “confined” to.
According to a July 27 WHO Ebola virus update a total of 1,201 cases of Ebola have been reported in these countries, resulting in 672 deaths. The death count is now believed to have surpassed 700, according to reports issued Friday, August 1.
The disease has already killed Sierra Leone’s top Ebola treatment doctor, Shiek Umar Kahn. Two Americans, involved in treating Ebola patients, also became ill. The two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly and an unidentified humanitarian aid worker, are to be flown in a special flight to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital in the USA; where they will be placed in a sealed high security isolation ward.
The possibility of an international Ebola pandemic became even more likely when a Liberian American man, Patrick Sawyer, became ill while on a flight from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria, where he had been scheduled to attend a conference. There were 59 passengers and crew members on this flight, all of whom may have been infected by Mr. Sawyer. They are now in the process of being located in order to be tested for the disease. This process has been made very complicated by the fact these people may themselves have infected hundreds or thousands more in airports and elsewhere.
The Ebola virus (photo eloquent in its structure) and which has no known cure, is said to be very contagious and is easily transmitted from person to person, via the infected person’s blood or body fluids.
The incubation period of Ebola virus takes about 6 to 8 days before symptoms began to appear. Early symptions include fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle aches, chills and weakness. As the disease progresses, more serious symptoms occur, including nausea and vomiting, diarrhea (often with bloody stools), red eyes, raised rash, chest pains and cough, stomach pain and severe weight loss.
Bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, vagina and rectum, as well as Internal bleeding, can also occur.
Beside blood, body fluids that spread the disease include sweat, semen, and stools.
It is not known if some of the passengers on Mr. Sawyer’s flight were from North Africa or the Middle East. The possibility that they were should already be ringing alarm bells in many Middle East countries; especially Saudi Arabia, where the annual Hajj pilgrimage will begin on October 2, 2104. The Hajj draws as many as 3 million Muslim pilgrims from all over the globe; and has in the past been the subject of other infectious diseases, including Swine Flu.
There is a strong possibility that the Ebola virus could very well show up during the 5 day pilgrimage; and as a result be spread to other countries even faster. As one communicable disease researcher stated, regarding the present Ebola outbreak: “We may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
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