Researchers have suggested that the number of Ebola cases can be tackled if the basic medical care is improved and followed properly.
The widespread misconception that there were no proven treatments for Ebola virus disease has meant that simple treatments, especially intravenous fluids and electrolytes, which could reduce the number of deaths caused by the virus, have been neglected.
According to Dr Ian Roberts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and Dr Anders Perner, at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, Ebola virus disease was a febrile illness with severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea cause profound water and electrolyte depletion leading to circulatory collapse and death, whereas many patients with Ebola virus disease receive oral rehydration and some electrolyte substitution, the use of intravenous fluids and electrolytes varies and it is likely that many patients die from deficiencies in fluid volume and electrolytes.
Implementation of practical protocols for managing fluids and electrolytes has not been given sufficient priority, said the authors, adding that it could substantially reduce the death rate. And in situations where there is uncertainty about the best way to treat patients, the authors call for rigorous clinical trials.
The scientists concluded that a stronger policy focus on providing effective care for patients with Ebola virus disease was not only a humanitarian imperative, but could also help to bring the epidemic under control. Patients cared for in Ebola treatment centres were less likely to infect other people than those cared for in the community. However, Ebola treatment centres must be more than a setting for quarantine. Treatment centres must be a setting where the best information was applied in the interest of improving patient outcomes, and where valid information was generated in the interests of future patients.
The study is published in The Lancet.