Infectious diseases such as AIDS or tuberculosis have killed millions worldwide, but while much is known about these diseases, the Ebola virus still remains relatively mysterious. However, there are several facts that are known regarding how deadly the Ebola virus can be.
The 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus has been the largest in world history, which unfortunately led to the spread of a variety of rumors and false information which caused some to panic. Scientists are working to create a vaccine for this virus, but these efforts have currently been unsuccessful. The best way of containing and managing the disease thus far is understanding its history, treatment and symptoms so one can protect oneself most effectively.
Facts You Need to Know about Ebola
1. Ebola Virus Disease Has a High Mortality Rate
The Ebola Virus Disease or EVD was once known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. This disease is made up of five representatives of the Ebolavirus genus. Each of these types can infect humans but only the Zaire, Bundibugyo and Sudan Ebolavirus can cause disease or death. The current outbreak was caused by the Zaire Ebolavirus which has a 90 percent fatality rate, one of the most dangerous.
2. Ebola Warning Signs and Symptoms
The presence of Ebola is determined using a blood test. Symptoms of the Ebola virus include headache, fever, chills, fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. These typically appear around 21 days after infection. As the disease progresses it can cause dehydration, liver failure and hemorrhaging. Ultimately the disease causes a release of excessive immune and cytokine cells which can damage tissues and organs in the body.
3. There Is No Treatment or Vaccines
There is not currently a vaccine for the Ebola virus. Doctors currently assist patients by providing patient support such as the provision of intravenous fluids, monitoring oxygen levels and blood pressure and maintaining optimal bodily temperature. Some scientists have seen promise in vaccine trials, but these have not yet been properly tested.
4. Outbreak Mostly Happen in West and Central Africa
There have been 34 confirmed cases of Ebola since 1976 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excluding the most recent outbreak the most deadly was the initial outbreak which killed 289. Most outbreaks have occurred in West and Central Africa near rainforest. The current 2014 outbreak has killed 932 people, around 55 percent of those which were confirmed to be infected. The initial outbreak occurred in Guinea but quickly spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.
5. It Transmits Through Body Fluids
The Ebola virus is spread from wild animals to the human population. It is then spread through human to human contact which is caused by contact with bodily secretions and blood on clothing, syringes or other items contaminated by infected patients. Saliva, breast milk, vomit, semen, sweat and other bodily fluids can transmit the disease. Risk factors for spreading the disease include traveling to areas where Ebola fever is prominent, particularly if you will come in contact with those that are infected.
6. How It Is Diagnosed
Symptoms of Ebola infection are nonspecific which can make early detection difficult. Patients suspected to be infected with the virus must be isolated and assistance from local or state health departments must be called in immediately. PCR and ELISA tests can confirm the presence of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, though some biopsy and viral cultivation tests are used.
7. It Disrupts the Whole Body System
The Ebola virus uses a host to reproduce itself. It does not require a specific type of cell to reproduce like other viruses so it will attack other parts of the body, though connective tissues are particularly affected. According to studies the only cells unaffected by the Ebola virus are bones and skeletal muscle.
The Ebola virus will disrupt the immune system. One of the viral proteins, VP35, interferes with the production of interferons of the central immune system. Other proteins developed by the virus traps white blood cells as they circulate through the body, limiting their ability to move freely. As a response to these actions the immune system releases molecules which increase blood flow and disrupt blood clotting.
8. Prevention and Vaccine Testing
It is currently very difficult to contain and prevent Ebola outbreaks. Isolating and testing potential patients early is critical. Those working with patients must also wear barrier protection including goggles, gloves, masks and gowns to prevent transmission. Those studying the Ebola virus are working to understand its ecological reservoirs to help prevent outbreaks. They are also working to create a vaccine for the virus, but there is no treatment currently available.
9. Experimental Drugs Begin to Show Effects
Two Americans working in West Africa are being treated for Ebola in Atlanta. Their conditions are being improved using an experimental drug developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. in San Diego. The state of their improvement varies.
The World Health Organization is considering releasing experimental drugs to patients in Africa including ZMapp, the collection of antibodies being used to treat the American patients in Atlanta. This drug is designed to bind with the virus as a way of reducing its effects. There are other preventative and antiviral drugs which are being considered for their potential effectiveness.