The Ebola epidemic that killed thousands in West Africa is receding, but those who survived the deadly virus are suffering a wide range of mental and physical ailments and are still in desperate need of care.
There are also important lessons to be learned for the international community for future outbreaks, not the least from statistics, which show that of children below a year old who became infected, 90 percent died. It was not just the virus that was responsible for that horrific death rate.
Experts say simply being separated and isolated … had a ‘devastating psychological effect on children’. There needs to be a complete overhaul of how patients are treated before becoming infected, as well as when they are able to survive. People who survive Ebola continue to suffer from serious physical and psychological ailments and require care long after the deadly virus has left their bodies, said WHO.
Nearly 9,000 people have died from Ebola since the West Africa-centered outbreak began 13 months ago, but many thousands more have survived the virus and are facing the aftermath. “There’s a huge need for ongoing care for people who’ve recovered from Ebola,” said WHO technical advisory Margaret Harris.
Survivors suffer a wide range of symptoms, including muscle and joint pains, including chronic arthritis, and sight loss, she said. In addition, they are often traumatized by their experience and face a variety of psychological problems. “It’s becoming clear that the disease doesn’t just end in the acute phase,” Harris said.
The UN health agency convened an international meeting of experts last week to discuss needed revisions to Ebola treatment guidelines. The experts, including clinicians working with Ebola patients in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone at the epicenter of the outbreak, had agreed that far more attention needed to be paid to survivors of the virus, Harris said. “There’s a need to have such people on registries so they can be followed up,” she said.