(RxWiki News) Though not a direct threat on American soil, health officials from the US and around the world are closely watching an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.
The virus, which causes Ebola virus disease, can lead to severe illness and is often deadly.
Over 100 cases have now been reported from several locations across three different countries. Global health organizations are investigating and responding to help stop the virus' spread.
"Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water."
According to the international non-profit group Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), 122 suspected Ebola cases have been identified in the West African country of Guinea as of March 31. This case count includes 78 deaths — a 64 percent fatality rate among the suspected cases.
The cases have been reported from several different locations across Guinea. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that additional cases are being investigated in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.
"We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country,” said Mariano Lugli, MSF coordinator in Guinea, in an MSF press release.
“This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organizations working to control the epidemic," said Lugli.
According to WHO, the Ebola virus enters the human population through contact with the blood, organs, bodily fluid or secretions of infected animals, including fruit bats. The virus then spreads from person-to-person in the same manner, often from contact with broken skin, mucous membranes (like the lips and eyes) or surfaces that have been exposed to infected fluids.
Ebola virus disease causes severe illness with symptoms like fever, weakness and pain in the muscles, followed by a period of additional symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, rash and internal or external bleeding. Death rates for human cases of Ebola virus disease have been as high as 90 percent.
WHO reported that the period between when a person becomes infected and when symptoms begin can be between two and 21 days.
There is no vaccine to protect against the Ebola virus, but WHO recommended a number of ways to limit it's spread during outbreaks, including cooking animal products thoroughly before consumption, avoiding close contact with patients and using proper protective equipment and clothing when caring for ill patients.
WHO, MSF and other organizations are currently investigating and responding to the Ebola outbreak in an effort to contain its spread.
"WHO does not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone," the organization reported on April 1. "Evidence from previous outbreaks shows that rapid response at the source of the outbreak is the best way to reduce the risk of the international spread of disease."