Ebola is short for Ebola hemorrhagic fever, a viral disease caused by Ebola virus. Ebola hemorrhagic fever in humans is only endemic to Africa, but one virus species can be found in other countries including America. There has been no reported Ebola case in the United States unlike in Africa where sporadic outbreaks happen till now. Marburg virus is a related virus to Ebola that can also cause hemorrhagic fever with the same symptoms and mortality rate.
The five known species of Ebola are the Zaire, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Bundibugyo, and the Reston Ebola virus. In 1976, an Ebola hemorrhagic fever accidental case caused by Sudan Ebola virus was reported in England. Since then, it was the only known human Ebola case reported outside Africa. Among all the virus species, the Reston Ebola virus is the only one that can be found outside Africa. However, there is no reported hemorrhagic fever case caused by this species yet.
Symptoms of Ebola
The symptoms of Ebola hemorrhagic fever will start to appear as early as 2 and as late as 21 days after infection. The average is 5 to 10 days. At first, patients can experience fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain, abdominal pain, sore throat, and weakness. Because these symptoms are also present in diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, and flu, diagnosis is often indefinite at an early stage.
As the Ebola hemorrhagic fever worsens, the patient will experience nausea, diarrhea (often with blood in the stool), red eyes, confusion, behavioral change, and hemorrhage in the nose, eyes, ears, mouth, anus, and wounds. Ebola virus causes multiple organ damage and 50 to 89 percent of the patients will not survive infection.
Mode of transmission for Ebola
Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily secretions of an infected person. An outbreak could start from one person handling an infected dead or alive animal and then he or she carries the virus to his family and eventually to a larger group of people. Handling the remains of an Ebola victim can also transmit the virus to another person. In hospitals, inadequate management of Ebola victims is a major cause of infection also.
Treatment and management of Ebola
There is no known cure for Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Patients are just given supportive treatment to fight the Ebola symptoms. Victims are at high risk of losing fluids and blood so that intravenous fluid and blood transfusion is the number one course of action to manage Ebola. Plasma transfusion is also common to replace blood protein and improve clotting. If the patient is lucky, his or her immune system will be able to fight the infection.
Prevention from Ebola
There is no vaccine proven effective against Ebola. Patients must be quarantine and only specialized health care professionals should handle them to avoid person-to-person transmission. Proper disposal of patients' belongings and disinfection of their surroundings and areas where they might have contaminated is also a must.
Foreigners planning to visit countries with reported cases of Ebola should regularly check travel advisories from their embassies. Handling dead animals must be avoided and frequent hand washing should be observed. Civilian travelers are advised to avoid patients or remains of people suspected with Ebola hemorrhagic fever.