One year after recovery, Ebola survivors likelier than peers to suffer disabilities

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Problems that included compromised vision, mobility, memory and concentration, as well as depression, anxiety and fatigue dogged Ebola survivors a year after their illnesses at rates significantly higher than among people close to them who had not been sick, a study reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases has found.

The study examined rates of disabling challenges among 27 people who had been treated at a Sierra Leone Ebola survivors clinic and 54 of their contacts at the time of their illnesses with each recovered patient bringing two people. Participants filled out questionnaires, followed by interviews in which they reported and rated physical, emotional and cognitive challenges. Compared to their peers, survivors reported significantly more pain, fatigue and depression. In addition, survivors reported higher rates of blurred vision. More survivors than uninfected contacts also reported hearing loss — although when adjusted for age this difference was not significant. Limited mobility was the most commonly reported disability among Ebola survivors, who were significantly more likely than their contacts to report having trouble walking distances as short as a city street, or climbing 12 stairs.

The authors note that the sweep of the 2014 to 2016 Ebola outbreak across three West African countries provides the opportunity to gather important information about the challenges facing survivors of the disease, and better meet their needs. The major limitations found among the survivors in this study, they note, highlight needs for sustainable access to long-term rehabilitative services.

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