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Oral Rehydration Therapy: An Important Tool in the Fight Against Ebola

By now, many of us have heard about the Ebola Virus epidemic in West Africa. Over the last few months, thousands have been infected with the disease. In fact, The Washington Post recently reported that there are now 7,400 confirmed cases in three West African countries.

Dehydration is one of the most common complications of Ebola, and according to the World Health Organization, rehydration is often a first-course of treatment for patients.

According to a 2003 report[i], Ebola symptoms cause extreme gastric distress, including diarrhea and vomiting, which rapidly deplete the body of vital water and electrolytes. Dehydration, in turn, can amplify inflammation caused by the disease, which causes the unexplained bleeding that many Ebola patients experience.

This is why oral rehydration therapy (ORT) is so important for treating Ebola patients.

How Oral Rehydration Therapy Can Help Alleviate Dehydration Caused By Ebola

Currently, dehydration is treated in two ways – intravenous therapy and oral rehydration therapy. IV therapy is the most common treatment for dehydration in the United States. But it is expensive, can be difficult to administer in field operations, and it’s not always available in developing countries.

ORT, on the other hand, is not as well-known. This treatment involves providing patients with an oral rehydration solution (ORS), like DripDrop, which includes a precise ratio of electrolytes mixed in water. ORS has been used to treat dehydration in the developing world since the 1970s, and at the time, it was hailed by leading medical journal The Lancet as “potentially the most important medical discovery of this century.”

Here’s why ORS can be effective in preventing dehydration during an epidemic like the one that’s currently happening in West Africa:

  • First, ORS is extremely cost effective. Compared to traditional IV therapy, ORS costs just pennies on the dollar. This makes ORS much easier to deploy in major humanitarian crises and more patients are able to be treated.
  • Additionally, ORS can be formulated and administered at home as soon as symptoms appear. Instead of going to a hospital for IV treatment, which may already be difficult for patients in developing countries, rehydration can begin immediately.
  • Finally, ORS is non-invasive; it doesn’t require needles, which can lead to infection if not administered properly. Plus, it doesn’t require training to administer.

The recently launched DripDrop Foundation has made addressing the Ebola epidemic in West Africa one of its first initiatives. The Foundation is donating doses of DripDrop ORS to ChildFund International, an aide group working in the hardest hit countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"This donation of the new DripDrop ORS through ChildFund International will reach out to many Liberians now in distress and needing ORS. The lemon and berry taste will make children enjoy it and like to taste it every time. This will immensely help save lives of our dear nation, " said Matthew T.K. Flomo, Liberia's Deputy Health Minister for Administration.

Please note: If the signs and symptoms of dehydration continue for more than 24 hours, a doctor should be consulted immediately. 

 
[i] Casillas, A. M., Nyamathi, A. M., Sosa, A., Wilder, C. L., & Sands, H. (2003). A current review of Ebola virus: pathogenesis, clinical presentation, and diagnostic assessment. Biological Research for Nursing, 4(4), 268-275.
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