Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Initiative

The first outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) were in 1976 in two remote villages of Central Africa. Outbreaks continued every few years and were contained in remote villages with limited means for rapid transmission to large populations. The most recent outbreak touched major urban centers with unprecedented numbers exceeding 28,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths reported from 2013 to 2016. The countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea were most affected.

May We Hush? Emory Eye Center faculty became involved with EVD through Ian Crozier, MD, a World Health Organization (WHO) physician who contracted EVD while treating patients in Sierra Leone during the height of the epidemic in the summer of 2014.

Crozier was successfully treated for Ebola by a team of specialists at Emory University Hospital. Several months later, he began experiencing ocular complications from Ebola virus .that led to the identification of live Ebola virus in his ocular fluid. He went on to develop a vision-threatening panuveitis and received targeted interventions that restored his sight.

From Left:  Drs. Varkey, Crozier, Yeh and Shantha From Left: Jay Varkey, EHC physician; Ebola survivor, Ian Crozier, MD and Emory Eye Center physicians Steven Yeh and Jessica Shantha

Steven Yeh, MD; Jessica Shantha, MD; and Crozier made multiple trips to West Africa, working with many partnering organizations, to provide care for EVD survivors and to investigate the long-term sequelae of Ebola virus and the eye.

What we have learned?

• There is a high prevalence of uveitis in EVD for survivors, ranging from 25-33%

• In patients who develop uveitis, more than 40% develop severe vision loss or blindness, underscoring the impact of eye disease on the quality-of-life of survivors

• Survivors are also prone to develop complicated cataracts, which often require more difficult procedures to correct

Ongoing work

Our team at the Emory Eye Center is at the forefront of understanding and caring for eye disease in Ebola survivors in West Africa, as well as capacity building for advanced eye care in Sierra Leone. Ongoing projects supported by NIH, industry, and foundation grants, as well as individual donors include the following:

• Evaluation of Ebola virus persistence in eye fluid and the impact on safety during eye surgery for Ebola survivors and eye surgeons
• Assessment of eye inflammation in Ebola survivors, particularly in women and children, and the impact on their quality-of-life and mental health
• Development of capacity for clinical care, research, and education for advanced eye care in Sierra Leone through country-wide symposia, case presentations, infrastructural and equipment support


Give Now

Support this urgent and ongoing work with your donations through Emory Online Giving or by contacting Karla Ruggiero, Emory Eye Center’s director of development.

Ebola in the eye

Key Facts About Ebola

• Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
• The 2013-16 outbreak was the largest and most complex since the virus was first discovered in 1976; it included more cases and deaths than all other outbreaks combined.
• The virus is transmitted to people from animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission via bodily fluids.
• Today, there are more than 10,000 Ebola virus disease survivors.
• There is currently no licensed treatment for acute EVD infection; numerous blood, immunological, and drug therapies and vaccines are under development.

Source: "Ebola Virus Disease," World Health Organization


[web links]

“Ebola: where are we now?” Emory Eye Magazine, 2017-18, pp. 15-17.

Ebola’s legacy: children with cataracts,” Denise Grady, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017.

"Ebola Live Virus Discovery," Eye Alumni Magazine, 2017.

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