Q and A with Ebola doctor

Through direct contact with infected blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

In Summary

• Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a rare and deadly disease most commonly affecting people and non-human primates.

• Virus transmitted through direct contact with infected blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

Lesson from Ebola outbreak./FILE
Lesson from Ebola outbreak./FILE

The government has moved to calm fears that Ebola has spread into the country.

Earlier, a woman was isolated after exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms.

She was cleared and Health CS Sicily Kariuki said there are no cases of Ebola in Kenya.


The Star spoke to Public Health Specialist Dr Elvis Ogweno.

What is Ebola?

Ebola virus disease formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a rare and deadly disease most commonly affecting people and non-human primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).

How is the virus transmitted to humans?

You can get infected through direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth with the infected animals, eating Ebola-infected monkeys.

How is the virus spread among human beings?

Through direct contact with infected blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola. The virus can also be present in urine and semen and can survive on surfaces for some hours.


How long is the incubation period?

It can take up anything from two to 21 days for humans with the virus to show symptoms.

What are the first symptoms to show after the incubation period?

Initial symptoms can include a sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat.

Subsequent stages can bring vomiting, diarrhoea and - in some cases - both internal and external bleeding.

Patients tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure.

Is the disease commonly misdiagnosed?

Many common illnesses can have these same symptoms, including influenza (flu) or malaria.

What measures are taken after the diagnosis?

If a patient shows early signs of EVD and has had a possible exposure, he or she should be isolated immediately.

He is treated in seclusion, his blood samples are collected and tested to confirm infection.

Why is it so hard to contain it in DR Congo?

There is a mistrust not only that targets outsiders, but also extends to anyone affiliated with the government, including locals who may be assisting in vaccination and containment efforts.

Some people in this region still do not believe that the Ebola virus is real. Others do not believe in the safety of the vaccine in general. Some people have avoided vaccination because they believe the vaccine is a poison or something to make them sick.

It is also very hard to track the person who had it first and spread it because of the congestion. Poor infrastructure and insecurity in Kivu hinder access so we can't camp there.

Is there a cure? 

Vaccines and curative treatments are still on the trial and are being used to treat Ebola victims in DR Congo.

There is a 93 per cent success on vaccines used on the victims.

Myths about Ebola?

Myth #1: Ebola is universally fatal.

Ebola can certainly be fatal, but not universally so. The case fatality ratio for Ebola and its close cousin, the Marburg virus, varies greatly depending on the setting.

Myth #2: Ebola isn’t treatable.

There are actually several effective treatments for Ebola that can help support individuals through the worst phases of the disease and increase their chance of survival.

These treatments include early and careful resuscitation with IV fluids; blood products such as packed red blood cells (PRBCs), platelets, concentrations of clotting factors to prevent bleeding; antibiotics to treat common bacterial coinfections, respiratory support with oxygen (in severe cases, via a ventilator), and powerful vasoactive medications to counter the effects of shock.

Myth #3: Ebola is the most contagious

Ebola is the most contagious disease and will spread rapidly across the US if it enters the country. Ebola isn’t the most contagious disease known. It’s not airborne and it’s not spread by aerosols (small droplets that float through the air). This makes it less contagious than a host of other diseases, such as measles, chicken pox, tuberculosis, or even the seasonal flu.

To the best of our knowledge, Ebola is spread only by close physical contact, especially with bodily fluids. So, unless someone on the subway vomits, defaecates, or bleeds on you, they aren’t going to be passing Ebola onto you.

Myth #4: We need to give experimental

Ebola drugs to as many Africans as possible to help stem the outbreak. Any human being given an experimental treatment that hasn’t yet been proven safe and effective in humans is, by definition, being experimented upon. Experimenting on humans, even those in poor countries, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Conducting research in resource-limited settings is part of what I do for Partners in Health. However, every person enrolled in a medical research study, whether they are American or African, is entitled to the same basic international ethical protections—and people in poor countries actually deserve special protections.

Myth #5: Nothing can be done to help

Africa—it’s just too poor. The true tragedy of the Ebola outbreak is that most Africans lack access to the very same medications, equipment, and skilled physicians and nurses that have been available in the US and Europe for several decades.

Access to these things could have prevented the current epidemic from raging out of control.

These very same measures could also be used to reduce mortality from the variety of other diseases, aside from Ebola, currently killing Africans each day.