The Ebola Communication Network (ECN) is a collection of health communication materials designed to help address the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. ECN collects Ebola communication resources from a variety of sources including USAID, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Without medical interventions and changes in community behavior, there could be approximately 550,000 to 1.4 million Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone by Jan. 20, 2015, according to the worst case scenarios predicted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) But global health experts are responding to the crisis with an increased sense of urgency and additional resources.
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids (blood, vomit, sweat, saliva, semen, feces, urine, etc.) by way of the eyes, nose or mouth. Most vulnerable are people who have been taking care of sick relatives or who have prepared an infected body for burial.
Health care workers are also at high risk, especially if they have not been properly equipped with protective gear or correctly trained to use, remove and decontaminate it. Long working hours and stressful conditions also create an environment that increases the risk of mistakes being made due to fatigue.
To prevent transmission, early recognition and treatment is critical. Health care providers and others should be alert for and evaluate any patients suspected of having Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Communication resources and tools can help community health workers identify and manage Ebola signs and symptoms.
Ebola symptoms usually appear about eight to 10 days after exposure, but can be as long as 21 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and include fever, severe headache, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, unexplained bleeding or bruising and muscle pain.
The key to controlling this outbreak is to focus on stopping the spread of Ebola at its source. That means caring for as many patients as possible in hospitals or, when Ebola Treatment Units are at capacity, at home or in a community setting. Safe burial practices are equally important. Effective, high-quality communication materials are essential to help communities manage this outbreak.
First identified in 1976, the Ebola virus was believed to have been carried by bats and contracted by apes and humans from food that bats have drooled or defecated on, but the current outbreak is spreading rapidly via human-to-human transmission . Once infected, death can occur when blood vessels deep in the body begin leaking fluid, causing blood pressure to plummet so low that the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs begin to fail. Recovery from Ebola depends on the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that can last for at least 10 years.