Essential Facts About Ebola
Ebola virus disease, formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is an extremely deadly disease that is caused by the infection of an Ebola virus strain. The Ebola virus strain can cause a fatal infection in human beings, monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas. The Ebola virus disease was first reported in Sudan and Congo in two different, but simultaneous outbreaks in 1976. The most recent outbreak has been reported in March 2014 in West Africa and has since spread to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal.
Ebola virus disease is caused by Ebola Filovirus and is highly infectious. It has a fatality rate of up to 90%.
Signs and Symptoms
The common signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease are listed below:
- Diarrhea, often accompanied with bleeding
- Muscular pain
- Severe headache and sore throat
- Acute weakness
- Abdominal pain
- Internal and external bleeding
- Impaired functioning of kidney and lever
The signs and symptoms of Ebola typically appear between 2 to 21 days of exposure to the Ebola virus.
Spread of Ebola
The natural reservoir host of Ebola virus is still not known. Therefore, the manner in which the first Ebola virus appears in humans in an outbreak is yet to be found. However, most of the scientists believe that Ebola virus is first acquired by humans by coming in direct contact with an infected animal such as a fruit bat or a primate like an ape or a monkey. Once humans acquire the Ebola virus, it is spread easily from one-person to another in the following ways:
- Coming in direct contact with body or bodily fluids such as urine, sweat, saliva, mucous, vomit, feces, semen, or breast milk of an infected person.
- Coming in direct contact with infected needles or syringes, clothes, beddings, and other medical equipment.
- Coming in direct contact with infected apes, monkeys, or fruit bats.
It is important to note that Ebola is not spread through air, water, or food. Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the friends and family of the infected person are at the highest risk of getting exposed to the Ebola virus.
Diagnosis of Ebola
Early diagnosis of a person infected by the Ebola virus is difficult as the symptoms exhibited are similar to other common diseases such as malaria and typhoid. However, if a person is exhibiting early signs of Ebola and has had direct contact with an Ebola patient, it is important to isolate the person at the earliest and then inform the healthcare professionals to collect the samples for further diagnosis. Commonly used investigations to confirm the Ebola virus disease include the ELISA test, antigen capture detection test, RT-PCR assay, serum neutralization test, and electron microscopy.
At the moment, there is no proven and approved treatment method for curing the Ebola virus disease. Two potential vaccines are being developed but they are still under testing phase. The symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. Basic interventions that can improve chances of survival include IV fluids and balancing electrolytes, and maintaining blood pressure and oxygen levels. The recovery of patients suffering from Ebola largely depends on good supportive care and the individual’s immune system. Patients who recover from Ebola tend to develop antibodies that can last for at least 10 years.
Prevention of Ebola Virus Disease
The outbreak of Ebola virus disease can be prevented in the following ways:
- You must observe good hygiene by washing hands with soap and warm water and using an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- You must avoid direct touch of items that might have been contaminated by an infected person’s body fluids or blood.
- You must avoid visiting healthcare facilities where Ebola patients are being treated.
- You must avoid burial or funeral rights that require handling of the body of an infected person.
- “Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa — The First 9 Months of the Epidemic and Forward Projections”, by WHO Ebola Response Team, et al. Published in October 16, 2014 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, accessed on 22 March 2015. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1411100