The Ebola virus is contained in the body fluids of victims; the body fluids include saliva, sweat, nasal discharge, blood, tears, semen, urine and vomit; in fact it is said that semen still contains the virus up to seven weeks after recovery from the disease.
On contact with such fluids, the virus enters the body through broken skin (injuries on the skin) and the mucous membrane covering the-eyes, mouth, nostrils, vagina- all these areas are covered by thin skin called mucous membrane. The hand can carry the virus to any or all of these places.
Ebola fever can also spread by contact with objects contaminated by the virus; these include clothing/handkerchiefs/
beddings of infected persons, animal parts of dead infected animals and any other items contaminated by fluids from infected persons or animals.
From the above, you can see that certain categories of persons are most at risk of contracting the disease.
1. Healthcare Providers
Healthcare providers are most at risk; these include doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, virologists, ward attendants, hospital laundrymen/women. Even among these people, nurses and doctors are most at risk.
In the prevent epidemic in West Africa, over 200 healthcare providers have been affected and of the six deaths so far in Nigeria, two were doctors.
2. Mortuary workers
One other group that is at great risk is that of mortuary workers, they have to prepare the dead for preservation or for burial. The situation is worse if they were unaware of the cause of death as being due to Ebola like what appears to have happened in Port Harcourt. If there are aware of the cause of death then the standard Ebola protocol will be followed.
The dead victim of Ebola is as infectious as the sick victim.
Hence the cause of death must be established before any action is taken by the mortuary.
3. Families of the above
Families of healthcare providers, mortuary workers and hunters are at great risk of contracting Ebola. If they (healthcare providers) are not aware of the patient’s actual disease or were not cautious enough in managing the patient, they could carry the virus in their clothing or other materials.
Hence overalls must be worn and gloves used in attending to any patient; such overalls should remain within the hospital premises.
Families of hunters and meat sellers/butchers who may also butcher of bush meat are also at risk, more so as this class of people is less known for personal hygiene.
4. Hunters/Butchers/meat sellers
Hunters of bush animals such as gorilla, chimpanzee, monkeys, antelopes, porcupines, fruit bats are at great risk as they could easily have contact with their body fluids and could be infected if the animals have the disease.
5. Pig farm workers
Studies have shown that the fruit bat which is the host of the Ebola virus frequents pig farms. Consequently, pig farm workers are therefore at great risk of contracting the disease.
6. Residents of areas without water.
The easiest way of breaking the transmission chain of Ebola virus is by the regular washing of hands with water and soap. Consequently, where there is no water, hand hygiene could be compromised, thus encouraging the spread of Ebola. Ebola infection is uncommon in developed countries.
7. Residents of Crowded homes.
Crowded homes could encourage the spread of Ebola if an unknown infected case is in the home. There is usually a little time in the progress of an infectious disease between the on-set of the disease and when the victim becomes ill but he is infectious because he has the virus; this is different from the incubation period. It is immediately after the incubation period of any infectious disease but very very short period, may just a day or two.