From Guinea to Liberia, then Sierra Leone to Nigeria the virus spread without hindrances, taking the lives of over 1000 people because of lack of adequate information from public health department to the public, cultural believes, myths and self-denial. Religion and superstitious belief cannot be ignored to have contributed to the rising numbers of victims that ignored or were unaware of all proven facts about Ebola, that Ebola is real and deadly!!
Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90% according to World Health Organization (WHO). The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission by close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. The incubation period of EVD from the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days.
Traditional values are highly prioritized in the rural areas in Africa which include touching the dead body or displaying the corpse (lying in state) to bid a final goodbye to the dead relatives. These are often practiced especially if the victim is old and has extended family. Some of this family will come from a far distance to attend the burial funeral and hence touch the dead body carrying the virus. Due to lack of adequate information from the public health to people living in the remote areas (villages, huts, farms) especially regions with outbreaks of Ebola virus disease, the disease spread unhindered.
Rumors, myths and miss information to the public about the causes and care of the disease have also contributed greatly to the spread of the virus. Information is often source from close contacts to the local people but from an unprofessional source. Such information like the disease can be treated with antibiotics (vitamin c, onions, garlic, and ginger) or that the virus can be prevented by bathing with salty water or eating bitter kola have no scientific proof linking it with the cure or prevention of the Ebola disease.
Stigmatization from the local community can also contribute to undisclosed numbers of people evading quarantine because of the fear of dying alone without access to the immediate family, but will rather resolve to go to prayer homes and other non-medical centers with hope of getting help which creates public health hazards to communities and family.
It is in overall interest of the people to know that no amount of anointing oil can cure Ebola disease but rather basic awareness, prevention and control measures which are listed below:
• The suspected reservoirs for Ebola are fruit bats.
• Transmission to humans is thought to originate from infected bats or primates that have become infected by bats.
• Undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat transmits the virus to humans.
• Human to human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from the Ebola virus or their body fluids.
• Transmission among humans is almost exclusively among caregiver family members or health care workers tending to the very ill.
• The virus is easily killed by contact with soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. A washing machine will kill the virus in clothing saturated with infected body fluids.
• A person can incubate the virus without symptoms for 2-21 days, the average being 5-8 days before becoming ill. THEY ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS until they are acutely ill.
• Only when ill does the viral load express itself first in the blood and then in other bodily fluids (to include vomit, feces, urine, breast milk, semen and sweat).
• If you are walking around you are not infectious to others.
• There are documented cases from Kikwit, DRC of an Ebola outbreak in a village that had the custom of children never touching an ill adult. Children living for days in small one room huts with parents who died from Ebola did not become infected.
• You cannot contract Ebola by handling money, buying local bread or swimming in a pool.
• There is no medical reason to stop flights, close borders, restrict travel or close embassies, businesses or schools.
• As always practice good hand washing techniques, but you will not contract Ebola if you do not touch a dying person.