Ebola survivors deal with vision, hearing, joint pain problems

Toronto: Survivors of Ebola virus disease (EVD) experience complications relating to vision, hearing and joint pain for months after being discharged from hospital, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin.

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 hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak that began in December 2013.

The clinic provided clinical care for 603 of the 661 survivors of Ebola living in the Port Loko district.

Among 277 survivors studied in March and April of this year, complications were common, said senior author of the study Sharmistha Mishra, infectious diseases physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

The authors said 76 per cent of the survivors reported joint pain, 60 per cent reported 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 follow-up 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, Mishra noted.

The authors 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.

The findings were published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.