Global health experts have said that 25 per cent of survivors of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) may suffer blindness as thousands of West Africans who survived the Ebola virus infection are suffering from chronic conditions such as serious joint pain and eye inflammation that could lead to blindness.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) experts said the Ebola survivors who fought off the most severe bouts of infection were the most likely to suffer on-going medical problems.
Dr Daniel Bausch of the WHO’s clinical care team on Ebola survivors said about half of all those who fought off the virus now reported joint pain while some are suffering from severe effects.
Bausch said: “Eye problems including inflammation, impaired vision and in severe but rare cases blindness have been reported by about 25 per cent of survivors. Sight problems, joint pain and headaches have been reported in a few survivors of previous outbreaks since the disease was first detected in 1976, but past epidemics were much smaller. This means that survivor numbers were too small to study or draw any meaningful scientific conclusions.”
Dr Anders Nordstrom, a WHO representative in Sierra Leone said: “The world has never seen such a large number of survivors from an Ebola outbreak. During the outbreak, the EVD infected more than 27,000 people and killed almost 11,300 but about 13,000 survived in the three countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This is new, both from a medical and from a societal point of view.”
The scientist however, noted that the vision impairments reported by survivors of the current outbreak were probably linked to the virus’ persistence in the eyes.
He said less measurable but equally serious long-term problems such as increasing rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder.