The dreaded Ebola viral disease, previously named Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a serious disease which kills up to 90% of anyone it infects. So far, the virus can be contracted by humans, as well as nonhuman primates which include such animals as chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys.
The virus made its first appearance in 1976 with outbreaks in a village close to the Ebola River located in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a secluded area in the Sudan, simultaneously.
Although its origin remains unknown, it is the firm belief of researchers that the main hosts of the Ebola virus are fruit bats or Pteropodidae.
Ebola Virus Incubation Period
The period of incubation for the Ebola viral disease is usually between 5 and 10 days. However, this period can be extended to 2 to 21 days in total.
Prognosis of Symptoms
The Ebola viral disease carries great risk of death for anyone who becomes infected. Following a period of incubation of between 2 and 21 days, the virus will then cause the infected individual to display a range and variety of symptoms. These often include intense pain, diarrhea, nausea, feeling ill and at times, internal and external bleeding. Within the second week of infection the fever will either lessen or the patient will begin to experience multiple organ failure. There is a relatively high mortality rate ranging from between 50% to 90%. This depends on the species and strain of the virus. Infected persons usually die from either organ failure or hypovolemic shock.
Symptoms in Different Stages
Ebola viral disease presents with a variety of symptoms which often appear quite quickly. The first symptoms are generally similar to those of more common and less severe bacterial infections such as influenza, typhoid fever or malaria. These initial symptoms include a high fever of at least 101.8 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.8 degrees Celsius, pain, severe headache, nausea, sore throat, bleeding internally and externally, dizziness, weakness, and fatigue.
Eventually, the disease progresses with more critical symptoms to include bloody or dark feces, diarrhea, petechia, vomiting blood, and red eyes which are a result of hemorrhage of the sclerotic arterioles. Secondary signs of the infection can also occur in the form of tachycardia, low blood pressure and shock in the form of hypovolemia.
One of the main effects of the Ebola virus is internal and external bleeding. In some cases an infected person may start bleeding out of any partially healed injuries or point of entries such as an injection site on the skin. This bleeding is as a result of the fact that the virus targets and affects the platelets in the blood. This in turn produces a chemical which creates holes the size of a cell into the walls of the capillary.
To some extent, Ebola can alter the levels of white blood cells and platelets, thereby making it more difficult and even impossible for the blood to clot. Hemorrhaging develops in over 50% of patients.
How to Diagnose
In order to diagnose the Ebola virus, blood and urine sample are tested with a special enzyme in the form of what is called ELISA or Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay. This does have a minute margin of error of about 2%. This results in a false positive even in areas where there is no outbreak. Another test was later developed by the USAMRIID as an alternative. This test uses Immunofluorescent antibody analysis. Neither type of tests is commercially available.
What Is the Treatment?
Unfortunately, there are still no effective treatments that can completely destroy the Ebola virus. The general course of action is to relieve the symptoms as much as possible as the body tries to defend itself against the virus. This type of treatment is commonly referred to as supportive care.
Supportive Care as a Treatment Option for Ebola
The methods of supportive treatments used for Ebola include:
- Use of IV fluids to maintain healthy levels of electrolytes (chloride, sodium and potassium) in the body
- Help with breathing through the use of oxygen and other devices
- Administering medication to reduce fever, maintain the blood pressure and help with clotting
- Administering antibiotics to lower the risks of infections by bacteria
- Good bedside care
What Is the Outcome Following Treatment?
The alarming death rate for Ebola is within 50 to 90 percent. So far, research has not shown significant results to explain why some people survive the virus while others succumb. However, it is a fact that those who die as a result of Ebola had not developed an effective immune response up to the point of death.