The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and in Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease got its name from. The current outbreak in west Africa started in March 2014. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It has also spread between countries.
The Filoviridae ebola family includes three genera: Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus, and Ebolavirus. There are five species that have been identified: Zaire, Bundibugyo, Sudan, Reston and Taï Forest. The Zaire species is reposible for the 2014 west African outbreak.
Pteropodidae family fruit bats are believed to be natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is transmitted into humans though infected animals e.g. chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.
Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials e.g. bedding, clothing contaminated with these fluids, or in burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person.
People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. People who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus for up to 7 weeks after recovery.
The incubation period from infection to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Ebola also causes low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
Rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and the treatment of specific symptoms improves the survival of an individual.
There is not yet any cure available for Ebola. The potential treatments include blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated. Vaccines are not yet available. Two early stage vaccine candidates in the stage of human testing.
Causes and Risk factors
Ebola patients’ family and friends in close contact with Ebola are at the highest risk of getting ill because they may come in contact with the blood or body fluids of sick patients. People also can become sick with Ebola after coming in contact with infected wildlife. The virus also can be spread through contact with objects like clothes, bedding, needles, syringes/sharps or medical equipment that have been contaminated with the virus.
Reducing the risk of animal-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission from direct/close contact with people, especially the bodily fluids. Gloves and other protection should be worn.
Safe burial of the dead, identifying people who may have been in contact with someone infected with Ebola, monitoring the health of contacts for 21 days, the importance of separating the healthy from the sick to prevent further spread, the importance of good hygiene and maintaining a clean environment.
Ebola iand other hemorrhagic fevers are difficult to diagnose because early signs and symptoms resemble other diseases, such as typhoid or malaria. If doctors suspect Ebola, they use blood tests to quickly identify the virus, including:
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
Medicine and medication
Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.
Recovery from Ebola requires a good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. Recovering patients can develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It is not known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola. Some people who have recovered from Ebola have developed long-term complications,
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.