Credit CDC PHIL
Although the mechanisms aren’t well understood, survivors of Ebola Virus infections often experience long-term, serious health problems long after the virus has been cleared from their system. This has become particularly apparent over the past year, as there are now more than 13,000 survivors of Ebola in West Africa.
Over the past week the World Health Organization has sponsored a meeting held in Freetown, Sierra Leone where experts have been discussing the medical, social, and research challenges that these survivors represent. Yesterday the WHO held a virtual press conference (45 minute Audio File) where many of these issues were discussed.
Aug 07, 2015
With Ebola survivors numbering about 13,000 in West Africa's outbreak region, many are left with sometimes-debilitating chronic effects. Experts wrapped up a weeklong meeting today in Sierra Leone designed to take on survivors' issues.
Global health experts are finding that nearly half of all survivors have joint pain, which can be debilitating. Inflammatory eye conditions, including uveitis, are also a common problem and can lead to blindness when severe and untreated. Other common issues are fatigue, headache, and mental health problems.
At a media telebriefing today, Anders Nordstrom, MD, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Sierra Leone, said recovery from the disease is a long, hard road for many patients, and the sheer number of survivors in the outbreak offers a unique opportunity to learn about the after-effects of the disease and how to manage them.
There are at least 13,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who have survived an encounter with the Makona variant of Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) since December 2013.1
But that’s not where the story, or the suffering, ends for these people.
Following the resolution of acute Ebola virus disease (EVD), there is the spectre of a lengthy period of subsequent symptoms, sometimes called ‘post-Ebola syndrome’ (I’d prefer post-Ebola virus disease syndrome or PEVDS), which is similar to that found among survivors from past outbreaks.2,3
In West Africa up to 50% of EVD survivors report these and other symptoms as well as fatigue, pressure in the eyes, uveitis (eye inflammation), blindness, hair loss, myalgias, swelling, menstrual irregularities, rashes and shooting pains.6-11 Eye problems have been reported in around a quarter of survivors.11 Anorexia was reported by 98% of survivors in a study of 105 participants with joint pain (87%) and back pain (46%) also common.12 This study also reported difficulty in short-term memory (27%), headaches (22%), sleep difficulties (19%), insomnia (13%), dizziness (11%), abdominal pain (32%), constipation (14%), decreased exercise tolerance (77%), decreased libido (23%), and sexual dysfunction (20%).12 There are also issues of stigmatisation, psychosomatic illness and a broader psychological impact among survivors, including depression and post-traumatic stress.9,12
And while you are visiting VDU, you might want to take a look at Ian’s latest blog on the seasonal influenza Down Under, in: