Medical experts reported on Wednesday that the fortunate ones who survive Ebola may suffer potentially blinding vision issues, joint pain and hearing loss for months afterwards.
Several people endured the debilitating after-effects without access to treatment in West African countries stretched past their limits by the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
The experts stated that of the 277 survivors examined at a clinic in Sierra Leone, roughly four months after being discharged, almost 80 percent reported joint pain.
18 percent suffered eye inflammation that could make them blind; sixty percent experienced vision problems; and a quarter reported hearing problems.
Sharmistha Mishra, lead author of the study from the University of Toronto, told AFP by email that the numbers were higher than they had initially expected.
Before this outbreak, there had been reports of Ebola after-effects.
However, the new study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, claimed to be the biggest and most detailed study yet into the nature of post Ebola problems, and how widespread they were.
Survivors of the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are expecting remarkable long-term effects with chances for long-term disability including visual loss, stated Mishra.
The West African Ebola outbreak has killed over 11,300 of over 28,600 people infected.
The study authors stated that in the countries affected by Ebola, not even primary care is readily accessible, and specialist treatment rare: At the time of the outbreak, Sierra Leone had two ophthalmologists.
Between March 7 and April 24 this year, the team had examined Ebola survivors in Port Loko, Sierra Leone.
They discovered that the higher a patient’s viral load had been at the peak of their illness, the worse the problems afterwards.
The team also uncovered further evidence that the Ebola virus may live on in specialized “sanctuary sites” in the body, such as the eye where it may result in the many vision complications several patients have reported.
Although the Ebola virus clears from the blood within weeks, the WHO has previously stated that it may persist for up to a year in semen or the eye, and in the breast milk of women infected with Ebola while pregnant.
According to the WHO website, transmission by survivors, sexually or otherwise, “appears to be rare.”
American doctor Ian Crozier, one of the study authors, fell ill while treating patients in Sierra Leone. He recovered and doctors found the Ebola virus in his eye months after his hospital discharge.
The team highlighted that there had been barely any care for Ebola survivors in the early part of the outbreak because of the urgent and overwhelming challenge of treating the sick.
The authors wrote that these findings emphasize the importance of continual clinical follow-up and care of all patients at discharge from an Ebola Treatment Unit.
They also highlighted the urgent requirement for the greater provision of eye care.