By Dr Peter Kadile

Viruses are again making national and even international headlines. Ebola virus is still a significant problem in Africa and the virus is still making its presence known in this country in Dallas, Texas, where Thomas Duncan is the first person to be diagnosed in the United States.

I did a column on Ebola a few months ago and I would just like to again offer information on the virus to clear up misconceptions.

1. What are the symptoms?
Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain,
headaches and a sore throat. These symptoms can appear two to 21 days after
infection. Some patients may also develop a rash, red eyes, hiccups, chest pains,
difficulty swallowing and difficulty breathing.
The early symptoms progress to vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver
function and sometimes internal and external bleeding (from the eyes, ears and
mouth)

2. How is it spread?
The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person or through exposure to infected objects like needles. The virus is not airborne and can’t be spread by contaminated food or water. It is believed the virus is only transmissible when the infected person is symptomatic.

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3. Is it fatal?
The fatality rate is up to 90%.

4. How is it treated?
There is no vaccine currently available and there is no specific treatment. Infected patients are treated symptomatically with supportive care, such as; IV hydration, maintaining blood pressure and treatment for any complicating infections.

Enterovirus D68 has also been in the news.
What exactly is this virus? This is a virus that was discovered in California in 1962 and has symptoms similar to the common cold. The virus is newsworthy because it generally only occurred in small clusters of the population, but this current outbreak is widespread. As of the writing of this article, the virus has been confirmed in more than 590 cases in 43 states. All of the cases have been in children except for one adult.

Most individuals infected with the virus will suffer from the mild symptoms of fever, cough and runny nose and a majority will recover with fluids, rest and symptomatic treatment. The children who have been hit the hardest and may suffer the more severe difficulties of wheezing and difficulty breathing are the patients with a history of asthma.

There have been reported cases of unexplained paralysis associated with Enterovirus D68, but as of the writing of this article, the Center of Disease Control testing has not found a direct link. The incidences of paralysis are extremely rare and may just be coincidental.

Unlike the common cold (rhinovirus), enterovirus can survive in stomach acid and infect the gut. Enterovirus can survive on surfaces for hours and maybe even a day.
It can be found in saliva, nasal mucus or sputum. Most people will catch the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing your nose or eyes. You can also get it from close person to person contact.

School has started and the season is upon us, don’t forget to wash your hands!

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