Caring for critically ill patients with ebola virus disease. Perspectives from West Africa

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2014 Oct 1;190(7):733-7. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201408-1514CP.


The largest ever Ebola virus disease outbreak is ravaging West Africa. The constellation of little public health infrastructure, low levels of health literacy, limited acute care and infection prevention and control resources, densely populated areas, and a highly transmissible and lethal viral infection have led to thousands of confirmed, probable, or suspected cases thus far. Ebola virus disease is characterized by a febrile severe illness with profound gastrointestinal manifestations and is complicated by intravascular volume depletion, shock, profound electrolyte abnormalities, and organ dysfunction. Despite no proven Ebola virus-specific medical therapies, the potential effect of supportive care is great for a condition with high baseline mortality and one usually occurring in resource-constrained settings. With more personnel, basic monitoring, and supportive treatment, many of the sickest patients with Ebola virus disease do not need to die. Ebola virus disease represents an illness ready for a paradigm shift in care delivery and outcomes, and the profession of critical care medicine can and should be instrumental in helping this happen.

Keywords: Africa; Ebola; critical care; outbreak; viral hemorrhagic fever.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western / epidemiology
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Patient Care / methods*