Survivors of Ebola face after-effects, trauma

DC | TEENA THACKER
Published Nov 1, 2014, 10:44 am IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 5:32 pm IST
The physical after-effects of the disease are among the most pressing problems
New Delhi: They may have cheated death but for Ebola survivors life is not easy. According to the World Health Organisation, these survivors are now facing problems like visual loss, bodyaches, chest pain. The physical after-effects of the disease are among the most pressing problems that Ebola survivors face. Doctors are seeing many people losing vision, other than dealing with the psychological needs of the survivors. 
 
“Services for survivors are gradually emerging. At one post-Ebola clinic, set up to deal with survivors’ psychological and social needs, it has become evident that physical after-effects of the disease are among the most pressing problems Ebola survivors face. We are seeing a lot of people with vision problems,” says Dr Margaret Nanyonga, psychosocial support officer for the World Health Organisation in Kenema. 
 
“Some complain of clouded vision, but for others the visual loss is progressive. I have seen 2 people who are now blind.”
 
Dr Nanyonga said that people with what she calls “post-Ebola syndrome” have a range of symptoms. These have been seen in survivors of previous outbreaks and cause long-term disability.
 
Apart from visual problems which affect approximately 50 per cent of Ebola survivors in Kenema, people complain of “bodyaches” such as joint, muscle and chest pain. They also suffer headaches and extreme fatigue, making it difficult to take up their former lives, especially if it involved manual work, as farmers, labourers and housewives. 
 
“We need to understand why these symptoms persist, whether they are caused by the disease or treatment, or perhaps the heavy disinfection,” says Dr Nanyonga, who has developed an assessment tool that will be used to establish the most common and disabling symptoms and what can be done to help survivors with these problems. 
 
Dr Andrew Ramsay, field coordinator for WHO in Kenema, says it is essential that potentially disabling physical and psychological problems be diagnosed and, where possible, treated as quickly as possible. 
 
“Eye problems might be caused by damage to the cornea, to the nerves or something else. At this point we do not have enough information to know exactly what is going on. But we need to find out urgently so we can do whatever we can to preserve the eyesight for people who have to try to pick up their lives again.” 
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