With an estimated 1,000 people infected, Nigeria’s outbreak of the deadly Chikungunya virus has been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization. Officials in Nigeria’s health ministry — where 28,465 cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been reported since July — have warned that it could get worse.
According to Ogochukwu Adiukwu-Ikoli, an analyst with the Ministry of Health, only 55 percent of suspected cases have been “verified.”
Ebola (or Ebola hemorrhagic fever) is an acute viral illness caused by the Ebola virus that affects humans. It was first discovered in 1969 and has killed over 20,000 people. To date, over 80 percent of human cases have been reported in remote parts of West Africa, according to the CDC.
The main treatment for Ebola is supportive care: addressing “signs and symptoms,” and ensuring that all critical parts of the body such as kidneys are functioning normally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People who have Ebola are contagious — but only after a certain time. Infected people can be contagious in as little as 21 days. People who are considered to be of low risk to others don’t necessarily need to be quarantined and monitored like those who have Ebola.
Should Ebola make a comeback, sufferers would likely have access to the same clinical care as healthy people.
Countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone have been at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, which is expected to die down in March. These countries were seen as the natural places to go if another form of the disease was to surface. Nigeria, for instance, had experienced a previous Ebola outbreak, in 2014, which killed more than 2,000 people.
The Ebola outbreak led to the mass hand washing and isolation of people who may have become sick with the disease. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, traditional remedies are often used to treat the illness.
But other diseases pose a larger threat to people around the world than Ebola. It’s estimated that one million people die each year from mosquito-borne diseases like chikungunya.
In fact, in Nigeria, one out of three children have had at least one case of the virus.
The threat of endemic diseases like this is likely to grow as climate change brings more extreme weather patterns in regions where pests feed.
In the United States, mosquito bites from Chikungunya virus tend to be mild, but can cause symptoms including joint pain, rashes, diarrhea, and, in some cases, seizures, vision loss, brain inflammation, and loss of consciousness. In Africa, fewer than 1,000 Americans have suffered from the disease, most of whom were in the countries hit hardest by the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Fluids and medications like Tamiflu prevent the spread of the disease — but not treatment. Patients are advised to wash their hands and avoid travel to areas where the virus is endemic.
Two cases of the disease have been confirmed in the United States. One American in Texas was infected with the virus in 2013 and the other in 2016 in North Carolina.
In the United States, outbreaks are rare.
There is no specific treatment for chikungunya virus. It is considered one of the world’s fastest-spreading and most lethal mosquito-borne diseases, but could be easily cured by administering a course of fluids and medications.
Read the full story at The Atlantic.
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