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Ebola Virus: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

22 September, 2020 Richa Tiwari

Ebola is the name of the virus through which a severe and often deadly infection is spread known as Ebola virus disease (EVD). It was previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It spreads via coming in contact with infected blood or body fluids. It was the first time recognized in 1976 in Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire). The Ebola virus is named after a river in Congo. Since the time of its discovery, there have been several outbreaks of Ebola mostly in the remote areas of tropical rainforests in Central and West Africa. 

Due to the remoteness of the areas in the majority of outbreaks, the number of victims was limited. But the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus was one of the largest in history in terms of the total cases and its spread geographically. 

To date, there are 5 recognized species of this virus, from which 3 of them were responsible for causing previous outbreaks. The 2014 outbreak caused by the Zaire species which is one of the most fatal strains of ebolavirus with a death rate of up to 90% of cases. 

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Causes of  Ebola Virus

The outbreaks of Ebola occurs whenever the virus gets transmitted first from an infected animal to a human and then from human to human. It spreads from animals to humans via contact with infected wildlife like fruit bats, gorillas, and chimps. And it is also believed that certain fruit bats are natural hosts for the Ebola viruses. It transmits from person-to-person by direct contact through secretions or body fluids from infected people like:

  • Blood

  • Breast Milk

  • Sweat

  • Stool

  • Urine

  • Semen

  • Breast milk

  • Vomit

Transmission can also possible through coming in contact with objects that are contaminated with any of these fluids and also from the dead bodies of the people infected with EVD. Therefore, safe burial practices are required most importantly for the people who handle them.

Symptoms and Complications of Ebola Virus

The host’s blood and immune system are the targets of the Ebola virus which can lead to bleeding and a weakened immune system. After 2 to 21 days which is the incubation period of EVD, its symptoms are:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Sore throat

  • Weakness

  • Muscle aches 

After this some patients additionally develops these symptoms also: 

  • Diarrhea

  • Disfunctioning of liver and kidney

  • Vomiting

  • Measles like rashes 

In 30-50% of cases of Ebola virus internal and external bleeding is registered after 4-5 days of the appearance of symptoms. Some people die due to multiple organ failures, and most of the deaths are due to severe dehydration from extreme level vomiting and diarrhea. Whenever an outbreak of EVD occurs, health care workers and the family and friends of patients are at the highest risk of getting the viral infection due to close contact with the infected person.  

Treatment and Prevention of  Ebola Virus

The cure for the Ebola virus disease does not exist nor there is any vaccine to prevent this infection. The treatment that is given to the infected people typically consists of rehydration, nutrition, and medications to control its symptoms like fever, vomiting, etc. Since most of the people die from dehydration, therefore, early treatment is extremely important in increasing the chances of survival. 

Thus, the only prevention from it is limiting the outbreaks which can be done by preventing the transmission of the Ebola virus from animals to human and then between humans. Some of the preventive measures for it are: 

  1. Immediate quarantine of infected animals and burying them promptly.

  2. Handling animals and their waste with caution and wearing preventive things like gloves, and clothing.

  3. Thoroughly cooking the animal products before eating

  4. Wearing protective equipment like gloves, masks, and long-sleeved clothing when handling infected patients to prevent their spread.

  5. Washing hands regularly most importantly after touching any animal and coming in contact with an infected person and of course before eating food.

  6. Adapting to safer practices of injection

  7. Proper sanitization and sterilization of all the instruments and the environment

  8. Quarantining the infected people

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Ebola virus infection is very deadly. Most of the time it takes the lives of people and since neither there is a treatment nor a vaccine available for it, the only prevention is being aware of it and taking all the protective measures to stay preventive from it.