Doctors have found evidence that the deadly Ebola virus can remain in the eye of a survivor for an extended period of time following the initial onset of the disease.
Ebola started in early 2014 in West Africa. Most of the Ebola cases and deaths related to the disease have been reported in the western African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Till now thousands of people have been infected and more than 11,000 people have lost their lives to Ebola.
A few cases of Ebola have also been reported in the U.S. However, most of them occurred in people who were helping patients in West Africa. Dr. Ian Crozier, an aid worker for the World Health Organization (WHO), was infected with Ebola while treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
Dr. Crozier was moved to the U.S. where he was treated for the disease in September 2014. In October 2014, Dr. Crozier was released from the hospital with no signs of the Ebola virus in his blood.
In about two to three months, the Ebola survivor developed an inflammation in his left eye and encountered vision problems. Dr. Crozier visited the Emory University Hospital, the same hospital where he was treated for Ebola, where Dr. Steven Yeh removed some fluid from his eye. The fluid was sent for testing and the results showed that Ebola virus was present in the fluids of Dr. Crozier. However, the virus was absent from the tissues around the eye or tears.
Doctors believe that Dr. Crozier is not at risk of transmitting the disease to other people. However, the case highlights that Ebola survivors should be monitored for possible infection of the eye. Doctors are not aware for how long an Ebola patient should be monitored.
Dr. Yeh revealed that besides the inflammation, Dr. Crozier's iris color also changed from blue to green. After treatment his eye color has returned to normal but the Dr. Crozier's vision is not yet 100 percent perfect.
"If the Ebola epidemic continues, ophthalmologists throughout the world will be seeing patients with post-Ebola uveitis, will need to recognize and treat this condition and will need to take appropriate increased precautions in performing surgical procedures on these patients," says Russell N. Van Gelder, president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Photo: Gordon Wrigley | Flickr