‘Post-Ebola Syndrome’ A New Mystery For WHO To Solve

Ebola has taken a terrible toll across West Africa, and it seems even the survivors are still suffering from the after-effects of the often-deadly virus. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is acknowledging that they are having problems understanding the long-term effects of what has been dubbed “post-Ebola syndrome.”

It seems many of the survivors of the terrifying virus are experiencing crippling and dreadful complications long after leaving the hospital, despite surviving the worst of the virus.

According to Matshidiso Moeti, the new head of WHO in Africa, Liberian survivors are reporting a whole range of new problems which include hearing and sight impairment.

“We need to be aware that (complications) may be occurring and pay attention when people are being treated in case there is something that can be done to help them.”

According to Yahoo News, Moeti spoke to AFP in the Liberian capital of Monrovia saying that the agency was initially focused on keeping the patients alive in their battle against what has been the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus ever encountered, with Ebola killing almost 11,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Moeti admitted that they are still “very much learning about this.” The Ebola epidemic swept through the three countries and infected hundreds every week during its peak over the autumn period, but now has tended to slow down.

However, over 26,000 people were actually infected during the outbreak which started in December 2013. Of the three countries, Liberia was hardest hit but has experienced no new cases after the last patient died back on March 27.

Moeti has recently toured the health facilities in Monrovia and various other Ebola-ravaged communities this week and she met up with Beatrice Yordoldo, the last Liberian patient to survive the disease.

Yordoldo was discharged from the center on March 5 and told Moeti that most of the survivors she had spoken to were complaining of various complications, including headaches, problems with their hearing, and sight, among other symptoms.

Margaret Nanyonga, a psychosocial support officer located in Kenema in Sierra Leone told WHO about the issues back in October last year.

“We are seeing a lot of people with vision problems. Some complain of clouded vision, but for others the visual loss is progressive. I have seen two people who are now blind.”

Calling the problem “post-Ebola syndrome,” Nanyonga said that visual problems had affected almost half of the Ebola survivors in Kenema. She said other survivors were suffering from chest pain, extreme fatigue along with joint and muscle pain.

“We need to understand why these symptoms persist, whether they are caused by the disease or treatment, or perhaps the heavy disinfection.”

According to IOL, the problem isn’t only confined to Africa, as an American nurse, Nina Pham who caught Ebola while treating a Liberian man at a Texas hospital, told the Dallas Morning News that she was also experiencing problems. In her case the post-Ebola syndrome involved problems with hair loss, insomnia, and aches after surviving the virus.

While fatigue and aches are apparently fairly common side-effects resulting from a serious infection, caused by the immune system releasing chemicals to fight the illness, experts are unsure if this is what is happening in the case of the Ebola survivors.

The medical community has been swamped during the recent outbreak of Ebola and in the past, outbreaks were never extensive enough to warrant more in-depth research into the after-effects of the virus.

Now, however, WHO is prepared to started catching up on its research. Moeti said that she thinks this is something they need to look into in more detail for future outbreaks so that they can be aware of what is happening to survivors of the lethal virus in the way of post-Ebola syndrome.

“I think this is something about which we need to learn more in detail for the future so that… as part of treating people with Ebola we are looking out for these kinds of symptoms.”

“Because I think in the first acute treatment of people with Ebola our focus (was) on keeping them alive and perhaps these other symptoms emerged later on.”

Hopefully in the future, focus will be made on both keeping the patients alive and also with their after-care once they survive the virus to avoid the often almost equally bad results of post-Ebola syndrome.

In other Ebola-related news, the Inquisitr reported last month on a British nurse who contracted the virus and claimed that an experimental drug and strawberries saved her life.

[Photo: John Moore / Getty Images]