Ebola survivors suffer vision, hearing, joint pain problems

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015,15:41 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Toronto | Survivors of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) may suffer from complications such as vision, hearing and joint pain problems, even months after they are discharged from a treatment facility, scientists including one of Indian-origin have found. The findings are based on clinical and laboratory records from patients at the EVD Survivor Clinic in Port Loko, Sierra Leone, one of the West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak that began in December 2013.

The clinic, run by non-governmental organisations under the oversight of the Sierra Leone health ministry, provided clinical care for 603 of the 661 survivors of Ebola living in the Port Loko district, about 45 kilometres east of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Among 277 survivors studied in March and April this year, complications were common, said Sharmistha Mishra, the senior author of the paper and an infectious diseases physician at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

The researchers said 76 per cent of the survivors reported joint pain, 60 per cent had new vision problems, 18 per cent had an eye inflammation (some potentially sight-threatening), and 24 per cent had hearing problems. The median time between their discharge from an Ebola treatment facility to their followup appointment at the survivor clinic where they reported these symptoms was 122 days.

Patients who had a higher Ebola viral load when diagnosed with the diseases had a higher rate of eye inflammation and new vision problems, said Mishra. Researchers said the findings may suggest that while the Ebola virus is rapidly cleared from most bodily fluids after resolution of the acute disease, it might persist in immunologically privileged sanctuary sites certain bodily fluids such as semen and the vitreous humour fluid of the eyeballs. She said the findings also underline the need for followup care in West Africa, to make sure these complications are diagnosed and treated. The study was published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.