On Ebola Virus, Traveller’s Diarrhoea, MERS & Zika Virus

Ebola Virus

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa involved major urban areas as well as rural ones.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, infection prevention and control practices, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralize the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development

Traveler’s diarrhea (Causative agent Escherichia coli)

Traveler’s diarrhea is a digestive tract disorder that commonly causes loose stools and abdominal cramps. It’s caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Fortunately, traveler’s diarrhea usually isn’t serious — it’s just unpleasant.

When you visit a place where the climate or sanitary practices are different from yours at home, you have an increased risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea.

To reduce your risk of traveler’s diarrhea, be careful about what you eat and drink while traveling. If you do develop traveler’s diarrhea, chances are it will resolve without treatment. However, it’s a good idea to have doctor-approved medications with you when you travel to high-risk areas in case diarrhea persists.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is an illness caused by a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Most MERS patients developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath

Health officials first reported the disease in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. So far, all cases of MERS have been linked through travel to, or residence in, countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. The largest known outbreak of MERS outside the Arabian Peninsula occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015. The outbreak was associated with a traveler returning from the Arabian Peninsula.

MERS can affect anyone. MERS patients have ranged in age from younger than 1 to 99 years old.

Symptoms of MERS

Most people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have had severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

Some people also had gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea and nausea/vomiting. For many people with MERS, more severe complications followed, such as pneumonia and kidney failure. About 3 to 4 out of every 10 people reported with MERS have died. Most of the people who died had an underlying medical condition. Some infected people had mild symptoms (such as cold-like symptoms) or no symptoms at all; they recovered.

Transmission of MERS

MERS-CoV, like other coronaviruses, is thought to spread from an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as through coughing. However, the precise ways the virus spreads are not currently well understood.

Prevention

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent MERS-CoV infection. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is exploring the possibility of developing one.

CDC routinely advises that people help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by taking everyday preventive actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, or sharing cups or eating utensils, with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.

Treatment

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for MERS-CoV infection. Individuals with MERS often receive medical care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, current treatment includes care to support vital organ functions.

Zika Virus

What we know

  • Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedesspecies mosquito ( aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes bite during the day and night.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
  • There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
  • Local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported in the continental United States. 

Zika symptoms

Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Red eyes
  • Muscle pain

Why Zika is risky for some people

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe brain defects. It is also linked to other problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika.

How to prevent Zika

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

Clothing

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.

Insect repellent

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients:
    DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Always follow the product label instructions.
  • When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.

At Home

  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.
  • Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.

Sexual transmission

  • Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.

How Zika is diagnosed

  • Diagnosis of Zika is based on a person’s recent travel history, symptoms, and test results.
  • A blood or urine test can confirm a Zika infection.
  • Symptoms of Zika are similar to other illnesses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya.
  • Your doctor or other healthcare provider may order tests to look for several types of infections
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