Ebola affects eyes

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Ebola affects eyes

A ghastly Ebola epidemic raged across West Africa from 2013 to 2016. Ebola, previously known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species. Ebola can cause disease in humans and non-human primates, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US. Says international aid organisation, Save the Children, “Across the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, almost 25 000 people, including more than 3 600 children, were infected, and over 10 300 have died. At least 16 000 children have lost one or more of their parents to the disease.” The New York Times (NYT) reports that there are about 17 000 Ebola survivors in West Africa. “Researchers estimate that 20% of them have had a type of severe inflammation inside the eye, uveitis. It can cause blindness, but even if it resolves and sight returns, cataracts can quickly follow. Usually, just one eye is affected.”
The sufferers are more often than not children as young as five, who, says the NYT, suffer “the toughest,
thickest cataracts that eye surgeons have encountered, along with scarring deep inside the eye”. Affected children are forced to drop out of school.

In October this year, a team of physicians and researchers from Emory University, a private research institution based in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US, visited the eye hospital in Freetown in Sierra Leone, at the request of that country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation programme. The visitors wanted to treat cataract sufferers and learn more about the link between eye problems and Ebola. The team included Ian Crozier, an infectious disease specialist
who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone in 2014. Crozier’s concomitant cataracts were treated in March 2017 and his case was described in detail in the The New England Journal of Medicine. Says Kwame Oneill, who manages Sierra Leone’s Comprehensive Programme for Ebola Survivors, “After Crozier became ill and had complications, he became a pioneer, a rallying point.” The team has so far been able to remove cataracts from a
significant number of Ebola survivors. Surgeons must be careful when dealing with the fluid in the eye, which may contain the Ebola virus. The father of one young girl, whose cataracts were removed and who can return to school,
wept at the news that she could see again.

Category: Education around the world

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