Ebola and the eye

Ebola has been making headlines around the world for weeks now. There’s a lot of fear and a lot of misinformation out there! I’ve spoken with many people and read many articles discussing the fear people have about the possibility of Ebola spreading to Canada. While I’m not an expert on Ebola by any stretch remember that Ebola is relatively difficult to transmit and the world is currently on high alert for anyone showing symptoms. Ebola is only transmitted through contact with infected fluids or tissues. The likelihood of it arriving in Canada is small and the chances of it spreading as it has in West Africa are also vanishingly small. Today’s blog is more for interest than anything else as I strongly doubt any of us reading this will be unlucky enough to ever meet someone suffering from the Ebola virus.

So what exactly does Ebola do to the eyes? In most cases the horrific images you may have seen or heard about with blood pouring from the eyes does not happen. That occurs in only about 20% of cases. While Ebola is certainly a terrible disease the external bleeding we imagine to happen to all Ebola patients again only happens to 20% of those infected. Most patients end up with the eyes being red, much like you would expect in someone with very dry eyes or pink eye. The majority of the ‘bleeding’ that occurs with Ebola is internal and is not actually seen.

Let’s now imagine that you were infected with Ebola but you pulled through. Can you expect any eye problems? Unfortunately yes. People who have survived Ebola are much more likely to get uveitis. Uveitis is perhaps better known as iritis and is an inflammation inside of the eye. People with uveitis have very sore, painful eyes that are sensitive to the light. It also causes blurred vision and if left untreated increases your risk for a variety of complications including blindness. Uveitis, is treatable with anti-inflammatory eye drops (steroids) and if treated early has no serious long term effects. If someone has uveitis it often will happen again in the future. No one knows why uveitis is more common in people who have recovered from Ebola as the disease is really not fully understood.

Ebola is certainly a scary disease and as it spreads in West Africa there has been a lot of panicking in the media. Always try to keep in mind that it is very unlikely to arrive in Canada and that even if it does it is unlikely to spread due to the many different infection control standards we have in this country.

If you do have any questions or concerns always feel free to contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

For more information about Ebola:

The CDC - Ebola

CBC News - Ebola: Surviving Ebola

Huffington Post - Symptoms of Ebola