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The Ebola virus disease is a rare but serious health condition. It is also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It is caused by the strain of a virus belonging to the Filoviridae family, genus Ebolavirus. The fatality rate of Ebola disease depends upon the strain of this virus. In 90% of cases, it can lead to death if necessary support and treatment are not provided to cure the symptoms of Ebola virus disease (EVD) on time.
This infectious disease is often characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, and weakness. This infection can easily spread from infected animals or people’s bodily fluid, tissues and blood to a healthy person who comes in their contact.
However, it is more commonly transmitted in families and friends from an infected family member to his or her caregivers who easily come in the direct contact of infectious substances of the patient that carry this virus. People with a severe illness need immediate medical intensive support care such as oxygen, electrolytes, blood transfusion, etc, in order to balance their health condition to a normal state.
It takes 2 to 21 days time to get the Ebola infection and in the onset of its symptoms. With the spread of the virus around the body, it can damage the immune system and multiple organs of the affected person. As a result of this, a remarkable drop is found in the blood clotting cells that lead to uncontrollable internal as well as external bleeding. No particular drug has been approved for the treatment of EVD so its prevention is the only way to protect your life from serious damages and death risk in fatal cases out of this infection.
What is the Ebola Virus Disease?
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare health condition but fatal (serious) one. It is caused by the strain of the Ebola virus. Out of five known strains of the virus, four can affect the human body. One of these five affects only the nonhuman primates such as monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, and pigs.
It was first discovered in the year 1976 close to the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, former Zaire. However, this came as a huge outbreak in the West African countries including Sierra, Guinea, Liberia, and Leone, during the year 2014.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only four cases of EVD were recognized in the United States. Eleven people were recovered from the treatment and one died. Since then, several cases of EVD have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year.
How Do We Get Ebola?
Ebola virus disease is not as contagious as other common viruses borne diseases such as colds, measles, and influenza. One can contract this virus via direct contact of the skin and bodily fluids of an infected animal such as monkey, chimp and fruit bat.
Person to person transmission of this virus is possible in the cases of any caregiver who look after an Ebola-infected family member in the same way as in the case of an animal to human transmission of the virus occur. Similarly, those who bury dead people if burry someone died of the EVD can get this virus infection easily.
Apart from this if you touch a contaminated surface area or needles that are given to infected patients, you can get this virus. You can’t contract this virus via air, water, and food. Also, anyone who has developed this virus disease cannot spread it to others until their symptoms begin to appear.
Symptoms of Ebola Virus Disease
The symptoms of the Ebola virus disease usually start developing after 8 to 10 days of this virus contraction by a person. The infected person cannot transmit this virus to other people until the symptoms begin to appear.
Early-stage symptoms of EVD include-
- Muscle pain
- Aches in joint and muscle
- Soreness in throat
Later stage symptoms of EVD include-
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Diarrhea (may be bloody diarrhea)
- Raised rash
- Cough and Chest pain
- Red eyes
- Heavy-weight loss
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding such as the bloody nose, bloody urine, bloodshot eyes, and bleeding from the nose, ear, and rectum when close to death.
- Internal bleeding
Causes of Ebola Virus Disease
The Ebola virus outbreak first happened in Africa. It was found in some African animals such as monkeys, chimps and nonhuman primates. Apart from this, a mild strain of Ebola has also been found in the Philippines in animals like monkeys and pigs. The Marburg virus has been discovered in African monkeys, chimps and fruit bats. Experts say that both Ebola and Marburg viruses are transmitted in human bodies through the infected animal's body’s fluids in the following ways-
- Infected Animals Blood- People can get Ebola virus infection through butchering or eating an infected animal. Apart from this scientists who have used infected animals for their research work have also contracted this virus.
- Animals Waste Products- Tourists of some African caves and underground mines have been contracted the Marburg virus through their interaction with dead infected animal’s feces and urine of the infected bats.
The Ebola-infected person usually does not get contagious until they develop symptoms. However, in later stages, the infected person may spread this virus infection to others through following ways-
- An infected person can spread this virus to a person of his family or anyone who is taking care of him in this period.
- The virus can easily enter the body of a person who prepares the dead bodies for burial if the body is of an Ebola virus-infected person.
- Medical personnel can easily contract this virus from the sick patient infected with this virus if they do not use protective gear such as gloves, surgical masks, etc.
There's no evidence supporting that the Ebola virus or Marburg virus can even spread through an insect bite.
In general, the risk of developing Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fever remains very low for most of the people. However, the risk factor can increase under the following circumstances-
- Medical or Personal Care Providers- People who provide medical care services, who directly have to deal with infected patients contain a high risk of developing this virus infection if necessary protective gears are not used while handling patients. Apart from this, an Ebola virus-infected person’s family member especially those who give care to the patient, contains a high risk of getting this infection because of their close contact.
- Traveling to Africa- The risk of getting Ebola virus infection increases for a person if he or she works or visits the places where this outbreak occurs mostly such as Africa.
- People Indulging in Burial Work- People who prepare dead bodies for the burial process have a very high risk of getting this virus infection if they have to handle a person who died of Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fever as the body still remain highly contagious.
- Animal Research Management- Someone who conducts animal researches is highly at risk of contracting Ebola or Marburg virus if they use for their research work an animal such as monkeys imported from Africa or the Philippines which are the highest outbreaks region.
Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fevers can lead to death if necessary treatment care is not provided to the patient on time. With the progression of this virus disease, it can cause following health complications in the affected person-
- Severe level of bleeding
- Multiple organ failure
One more crucial reason why this virus is deadly because it can interfere with your body’s immune system which works as protection shied in normal conditions. By deteriorating your immune system it hampers its defensive ability to fight off with diseases causing free radicals or external body’s attack. However, it is not yet clear why some people recover from the Ebola and Marburg infections and some do not.
People who survive this disease have a very slow recovery. The patient may take several months to recover his weight and health strength. These viruses remain in the body for many weeks causing following health impacts in the patient-
- Hair loss
- Eye inflammation
- Liver inflammation or Hepatitis
- Sensory changes
- Testicular inflammation
In some cases, doctors determine the existence of the Ebola virus disease based on the patient’s signs and symptoms. However, it is not possible every time to identify this disease only by listening to the patient’s symptoms. In that case, doctors prescribe diagnostic tests. Usually, blood and tissue tests help in diagnosing Ebola.
Also, some tests help in rule out other underlying health conditions like malaria or cholera if your doctors suspect that your symptoms can be the result of other underlying issues. A person diagnosed with Ebola virus disease needs to live in isolation for avoiding his or her public contact in order to prevent its spreading risk to others which are very important.
Ebola Virus Treatment
As of date, there is no licensed vaccine for the treatment of the Ebola virus. Even though several vaccines have been tested, but currently not a single one of them used clinically. The aim of the treatment of this disease is to manage all the symptoms developed as a result of this virus infection. At present, the treatment of this disease is limited to intensive supportive care to patient including-
- Fluids and electrolytes are given to the patient for preventing dehydration
- Maintaining the oxygen level
- Maintaining their blood pressure level to the normal state
- Treatment is provided for other complicating infections in the patient
- Medicine is given for relieving other conditions such as fever, nausea, pain, and diarrhea
- Blood transfusions
The Food and Drug Administration of the U.S. has recently approved a vaccine for Ebola disease. This requires being taken in a single dose. Another vaccine for the treatment of the Ebola virus disease has been discovered by the Democratic Republic of Congo. This requires to be taken in 2 doses on an interval of 56 days. However, research for detecting a variety of Ebola virus disease curing vaccines is still in its ongoing phase.
You can prevent your risk of contracting Ebola and Marburg virus as well as its spreading risk to others in case someone has already contract this virus, by following the below-mentioned measures-
- Wash Your Hand Very Frequently- Just like any other infectious disease even the Ebola virus infection can be prevented by washing your hands very frequently. Use soap and water for cleaning your hands or sanitize it with an alcohol-based sanitizer containing at-least 60 percent of alcohol.
- Maintain a Safe Distance with Infected Person- Avoid contact with an Ebola virus-infected person. Especially, it is important for caregivers as they have to be in close touch with the patient. The virus can easily transmit through the patient’s cough, sneeze, semen, vaginal secretion, and body’s fluids and tissues so avoid their contact. Usually, the Ebola and Marburg get highly contagious in their later stages.
- Don’t Handle the Dead Body Remains of Ebola Patient-The dead body remains of the Ebola virus disease patient should not be handled carelessly as it is still contagious. It must be buried by the organized and trained team by using safety equipment.
- Follow Directed Infection-Control Measures- It is important for everyone to follow guided infection-control measures. However, this gets more crucial if you belong to a healthcare unit in any way. Wear your mask, hand gloves, gowns, eye-shields, etc while handling the patient. Keep the patient in isolation for preventing the virus from spreading risk to others who are healthy or uninfected. Carefully sterilize the instruments and dispose of the used needles safely.
- Avoid Consuming Bush Meat- People who belong to developing countries should avoid purchasing and consumption of wild animals such as nonhuman primates available in the local markets.
- Avoid Visiting Areas Known for Outbreaks- Places that are known for the outbreak, their visit should be avoided in order to prevent your risk of Ebola virus. Africa which is primarily known for this virus infection, so traveling to this country must be avoided. However if important then do a thorough checking of the current health environment and any epidemic news in recent times on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the outbreaks regions.
Ebola virus even though not a highly contagious infection but it contains a high risk of complications, so be aware and careful of the symptoms of Ebola virus disease and take immediate medical help in case you notice these signs and symptoms.