***About half of Ebola survivors suffer joint pain and about a quarter have had eye complications, based on preliminary data, the World Health Organization said.
The joint pain can be a debilitating and serious problem that prevents people from going back to work and providing for their families, said Dr. Daniel Bausch from the WHO's clinical-care team.
About 25 per cent of survivors in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have shown serious eye complications with some degree of change in vision, Bausch said. Some of them have uveitis, inflammation that if left untreated can lead to blindness.
One of the challenges in treating eye complications is the lack of specialists. Sierra Leone has only two trained opthamologists, Bausch noted. Specialists from Emory University in the U.S., the WHO and non-governmental organizations are helping to provide eye care for Ebola survivors.
It is difficult to compile early data on mental health consequences, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, among Ebola survivors, Bausch said.
There are no licensed drugs specifically for the Ebola virus and its complications. Several preventive vaccines and treatments are in various stages of testing.
Last week, WHO announced that an experimental Ebola vaccine designed by Canadian scientists seems to work based on the interim results of a trial in Guinea. It could be approved by regulators in weeks to months, the agency said.
Doctors said one of the challenges health-care workers are dealing with on the ground is the increasing number of survivors who are pregnant.
To date, maternal and fetal mortality has been very high among Ebola survivors, Bausch said.
On rare occasions where a pregnant woman survives and goes into labour, the virus seems to persist in the fetus and placenta, Bausch said. The fetus and placenta seem to be "immunologically protected" sites in the body that the immune system's antibodies don't clean out.
The eyes and testes are two other such sites.
Since the eye can be a reservoir for the virus, cataract surgery could carry infectious risks to the surgical team. Bausch said to his knowledge, cataract surgery hasn't been attempted among Ebola survivors.
It is possible that if cataracts are removed and there is no other damage to the eye then vision will be restored.
As of Aug. 2, WHO says nearly 27,900 cases and 11,300 deaths have been reported worldwide. There were two confirmed cases of Ebola reported in the week ending Aug. 2, one each in Guinea and Sierra Leone. It was the lowest weekly total reported since March 2014, and marks a third consecutive decline in weekly cases...***