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Ebola Survivors can have Long-Lasting Neurological Problems, Study Says

Update Date: Feb 25, 2016 10:33 AM EST
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Many Ebola survivors have to live with neurological health problems for an extended period of time after symptoms of an infection have already disappeared, a new study is reporting.

"While an end to the outbreak has been declared, these survivors are still struggling with long-term problems," study author Dr. Lauren Bowen, from the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said reported in the press release.

For this research, the team analyzed the health of 82 survivors with the average age of 35 from Liberia, one of the three West African nations where the Ebola outbreak, which started in 2013, was widespread. The researchers monitored patients' brain health six months after they were first infected with Ebola.

The team found that the majority of them suffered from some kind of neurological problem. The most common symptoms were headache, memory loss, depressed attitude, weakness, muscle pain, tremors, abnormal reflexes and abnormal eye movements. The researchers added that two of the patients had suicidal ideation and one suffered from hallucinations.

"More than 28,600 people were infected with Ebola in West Africa during the outbreak. Of that number, 11,300 died. We wanted to find out more about possible continued long-term brain health problems for the more than 17,000 survivors of the infection," Bowen said. "It is important for us to know how this virus may continue to affect the brain long term."

Prior to this study, the World Health Organization (WHO) reasoned in 2015 that patients who had more severe infections are more likely to have ongoing health problems.

The study's findings are scheduled to be presented at the 68th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Vancouver, Canada.

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