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Ebola and the Link to Gulf War Syndrome

Not many people would connect Gulf War Syndrome to Ebola via Cipro –

but here's the evidence:-

Ebola Virus:

The important thing to say here is that yes, antibiotics are NOT prescribed for viruses.  A virus, however, can knock out the body's defences and then a secondary bacterial infection can get a grip – which is when an antibiotic would be prescribed.


In February 2016, the Daily Mail published an article about how a study has shown the majority of Ebola survivors are still suffering from mental problems, and that the “most common problems included muscle pain, headaches, memory loss and depressed moods, but in rare cases patients were suicidal”.


This group of symptoms does sound a bit familiar, which is not surprising when we look at what was in the medical packs for treatment according to NY Times journalist Jeffrey Gettleman:


What are those?” I asked.


That’s medicine for Ebola patients,” explained a Sierra Leonean doctor.


I checked the boxes:acetaminophen (paracetamol), ciprofloxacin, some oral rehydration salts — all available at the smallest pharmacies, even here. I was stunned.


That’s it?” I asked.


Yeah,” the doctor said. “That’s it. Maybe an IV for the really bad cases.


Jeffrey was reporting on the epidemic when he visited an Ebola clinic in 2014, and saw nurses setting out pills on little squares of paper.  His article appeared in the 'Sunday Review' just before Christmas 2014:


That ciprofloxacin should be so readily available is interesting, and a quick search reveals that the makers, Bayer, are very keen to help out in the event of global disasters.  Their website lists all the good work they do, and they gave “one of the largest packages of donations in the company's history. ...drugs with a market value of 3.7 million euro (were made) available to treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria”.


The report continues: “The donated medicine is the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. This medication does not treat the ebola infection itself, but can be used for life-threatening secondary bacterial infections.

Bayer website (science for a better life)

Disaster Aid Reports 2014


Lisa Bloomquist has also written about the 'Post Ebola Syndrome', and comments that:

If ciprofloxacin was effective at treating Ebola, perhaps it would be excusable to give such a destructive drug to the Ebola victims of West Africa.  After all, Ebola is a dangerous, and often deadly, disease. However, ciprofloxacin has never been approved for treatment of Ebola, or any other virus”.


She concludes, sadly, that the people of West Africa trusted they were being given the appropriate medicines for Ebola, and certainly didn't expect to be dosed with something that comes with a warning of causing permanent damage and chronic illness.  Not that the busy doctors and nurses would have discussed the patient information leaflet with them.  You can read the full article at



As with Gulf War syndrome there are several studies, albeit small ones, which look at the problems affecting Ebola survivors.  Here are some study summaries and links:


Largest study of Ebola survivors finds vision, hearing, joint pain problems.  December 23, 2015



The largest study of survivors of the largest recorded outbreak of Ebola virus disease found they commonly reported complications such as vision, hearing and joint pain problems up to several months after they were discharged from an Ebola treatment facility. Findings published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases show 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. Patients who had a higher Ebola viral load when diagnosed with the diseases had a higher rate of eye inflammation and new vision problems.

Ebola survivor study yields insights on complications of disease.  Feb 24, 2016

pain 2.jpg


Preliminary findings from PREVAIL III, a study of Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivors being conducted in Liberia, indicate that both Ebola survivors and their close contacts have a high burden of illness. However, the prevalence of eye, musculoskeletal, and neurological complications was greater among the individuals who survived EVD.  On average, survivors enrolled in the study about one year after experiencing EVD symptoms. Investigators found that as self-reported by survivors, 60 percent experienced eye problems, 53 percent had musculoskeletal problems and 68 percent had neurological difficulties.

Most Ebola survivors examined in study experienced brain symptoms six months after infection. February 24, 2016


Most of the 82 Ebola survivors in a new study from the world's largest Ebola outbreak had brain symptoms more than six months after the initial infection. The study is part of the larger Prevail III study, which follows patients with prior Ebola virus disease and their close contacts who serve as study controls. At least six months after the start of their disease, most of the survivors had some neurologic abnormality. The most common ongoing problems were weakness, headache, memory loss, depressed mood and muscle pain. Two people were suicidal and one had hallucinations.



That last report prompted the Daily Mail article which was mentioned above, and is shown in full here. It was published on 26th Feb 2016 and up until then not much notice had been taken in the UK press, except for some headline reports about British nurse Pauline Cafferkey.  Needless to say, not much notice has been taken since as Ebola is pretty much forgotten now.


A majority of Ebola survivors suffer some form of long-term brain health problems, according to a new study.


A majority of Ebola survivors suffer some form of long-term brain health problems, according to a new study.  Patients who were successfully treated for the disease were found to have neurological issues six months later.


The most common problems included muscle pain, headaches, memory loss and depressed moods, but in rare cases patients were suicidal, the US researchers said.


It comes as British nurse Pauline Cafferkey remains in the Royal Free Hospital in London for treatment for a 'late complication' from Ebola.


It is the third time the 40 year old, from South Lanarkshire, Scotland, has been treated in hospital since contracting the virus in Sierra Leone in December 2014 at a Save the Children treatment centre.


The study, by the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, examined 82 survivors in Liberia and found that most had some form of 'neurologic abnormality' at least six months after they became infected.


Around two thirds of the group, which had an average age of 35, had body weakness, while half suffered headaches and memory loss. Two people were suicidal and one suffered hallucinations. Doctors also found survivors commonly had abnormal eye movements and tremors.


The research, which was presented at the annual meeting of American Academy of Neurology, forms part of a wider study into the long-term health effects of the virus.


More than 17,000 people survived the outbreak in west Africa, although the virus left 11,300 dead. Dr Lauren Brown, the study's author, said: 'While an end to the outbreak has been declared, these survivors are still struggling with long-term problems.'


'It is important for us to know how this virus may continue to affect the brain long term.'

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Brown added: 'It was pretty striking, this is a young population of patients, and we wouldn't expect to have seen these sorts of problems.


'When people had memory loss, it tended to affect their daily living, with some feeling they couldn't return to school or normal jobs, some had terrible sleeping problems.


'Ebola hasn't gone away for these people.'


The World Health Organisation declared the Ebola outbreak over last year, but two new cases emerged in Sierra Leone in January. The organisation called for a 'critical period of heightened vigilance'.


This Washington Post article from October 2015 seems to draw all the threads together.  It demonstrates a clear indication that the Ebola Virus can survive in 'immune-priviledged' areas such as the eyeball and the testes for many months.  Then there are also the concerns about joint pain, fatigue and psychological problems, which may be simply be the after effects of a serious virus infection, or the treatment.  “Aggressive disinfectants” have been quoted as a possible cause, but there hasn't been any mention of antibiotics – so far.


British nurse’s re-hospitalization, reports of blindness and other ‘post-Ebola syndrome’ complications haunt survivors.  October 9, 2015


A British nurse, thought to have made a full recovery in January from Ebola, has been taken to a hospital in a serious condition due to what health officials described as delayed complications from the virus — raising questions about the long-term impact of the disease on survivors.


The Telegraph reported that 39-year-old Pauline Cafferkey, who contracted the virus in Sierra Leone, was in an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London early on Friday morning. The hospital said in a statement that she was suffering from "an unusual late complication" of Ebola and is in serious condition, but did not offer more details.


Cafferkey is one of several survivors who have reported suffering from issues that appear to be related to lingering effects of the virus.


A year ago, when the World Health Organization sent a team to Kenema, a part of Sierra Leone where the outbreak first hit, patients reported a whole range of "post-Ebola syndrome" symptoms.


"Apart from visual problems which affect approximately 50% of Ebola survivors in Kenema, people complain of 'body aches' such as joint, muscle and chest pain. They also suffer headaches and extreme fatigue, making it difficult to take up their former lives — especially if it involved manual work — as farmers, labourers and housewives," the World Health Organization  said in a report.


Margaret Nanyonga, a psychosocial support officer for the WHO in Kenema, was quoted by the organization as saying that she was seeing a lot of people with vision problems. “Some complain of clouded vision, but for others the visual loss is progressive. I have seen 2 people who are now blind," Nanyonga said.


The most studied case may be that of American doctor Ian Crozier, who was treated for Ebola at Emory Hospital in Atlanta in September 2014 after becoming infected in Sierra Leone.


According to a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June, Crozier left the hospital in October with no signs of Ebola in his blood but developed inflammation and very high blood pressure in his left eye two months later. An ophthalmologist tested the fluid in his eye and found incredibly high levels of the virus — even higher than had been at his blood. In addition to causing swelling and vision problems, the virus is also believed to have turned his eye from blue to green.


"It was a shocking finding," his doctors said.


In a video released by Emory University, Crozier described the ordeal. Specialists treated him with corticosteroids which he said may have saved his vision.


"The likely thing is that I'm an outlier. Until we know more we don't know whether other West African survivors will have virus in their eyes," Crozier said.


Nina Pham, a nurse in Dallas who contracted the virus from a patient she cared for at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, has said that she is suffering  from myriad health problems. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, she described symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, body aches and liver problems and said she is " frightened by the unknown possible long-term effects of Ebola and experimental treatments used to save her life." Pham is suing the owner of the hospital for negligence that caused the conditions that led to her infection.


Infectious disease experts said that while it's possible the virus may linger in some patients, they believe it is unlikely the virus could be transmitted by survivors.


Crozier and the Emory doctors said they were careful with infection control procedures after they made the discovery but believed that there was no chance of him passing on the infection without people coming into direct contact with the fluid in his eyes.


In the case of Cafferkey, British health authorities said they were reaching out to those who had been in contact with the nurse as a precaution but said that they believe "the risk to the general public remains low."


We'll keep updating this page with any further articles about both Gulf War Syndrome and Post Ebola Virus.

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