A new British study suggests the Ebola virus may adversely affect a patient's vision. This new research complicates results from an earlier study that found most Ebola survivors had normal vision after being tested by an ophthalmologist.
In this new study, professors at both the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool School of Topical Medicine contacted 27 Ebola survivors and 54 unaffected residents of the West African nation of Sierra Leone. About 80 percent of Ebola survivors said they had a visual disability, but only 10 percent of the control group reported a disability.
Out of the Ebola survivors with a disability, 44 percent said they experienced an increase in blurry vision. Another 41 percent said they had near-distance vision problems, and the remaining 26 percent said they had long-distance issues.
This new data contradicts an earlier study conducted by the University of Liverpool's ophthalmology department. The older study examined 82 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone and found that 75.6 percent of the patients had normal visual acuity.
Dr. Janet Scott, the main researcher on the new study, said this apparent contradiction could be explained in two ways. First, the Ebola survivors' vision could have gotten worse after the first examination. If that's not the case, then perhaps the kind of blurry vision these patients reported can't be cured with traditional ophthalmic methods.
Scott also noted that Ebola patients who were given prescription spectacles still said they couldn't see clearly. More research is needed to better understand exactly what effect the Ebola virus has on the eyes.
Ebola is an acute virus that first spreads from wild animals to humans. Once a human has the virus, s/he can spread it by kissing, sharing drinks, sexual intercourse, or even touching.
Symptoms of Ebola often include a serious fever, internal bleeding, muscle aches, and coughing up blood. Without proper care, Ebola could be life-threatening. The official fatality rate for Ebola patients is 50 percent.
Ebola became headline news in 2014 when the virus rapidly spread into densely populated areas of West Africa. Before 2014, most cases of Ebola were isolated to small villages in Central Africa.
The 2014 outbreak began in the nation of Guinea and quickly moved into Liberia and Sierra Leone. Doctors believe the specific Ebola strain that broke out in Guinea was the Zaire ebolavirus. In total, there are five species of Ebola: Zaire, Sudan, Reston, Taï Forest, and Bundibugyo.
Sadly, 14,124 Sierra Leone residents caught Ebola between 2014 and 2016. 3,956 of these Ebola patients passed away. Also, about 4,800 Liberians and 2,550 Guineans died due to Ebola in the same time frame.
Sierra Leone is now officially considered free of the Ebola virus and welcomes travelers from around the world. The authorities in Sierra Leone hope to increase business tourism in the coming years to make up for the economic loss between 2014 and 2016.
The new University of Liverpool study was published in Oxford Academic under the title "Disability among Ebola survivors and their close contacts in Sierra Leone: a retrospective case-controlled cohort study." The older was published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July of 2017. This study was entitled, "Novel Retinal Lesion in Ebola Survivors, Sierra Leone, 2016."