The Ebola virus is responsible for causing a disease in humans called Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), earlier which was also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever.
The virus belongs to the family filoviridae. This virus family includes the other 3 genus named cuevavirus, marburgvirus, and Ebola virus. Ebola virus-derived its name from the Ebola River where it started to spread first. It again contains 6 species namely Zaire, Bundibugyo, Sudan, Taï Forest, Reston, and Bombali.
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The virus was first identified in 1976 in western countries of Africa. But the major outbreak of the disease occurred in the year 2014 to 2016 in Guinea a country in West Africa. Then the disease crossed the border and infected the people of the nearer country of Sierra and Liberia. This outbreak took the lives of more than 11300 people.
The recent outbreak of 2018-2019 affected the eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) has the more complex virus.
In Guinea, the outbreak ended in 2016. But recently on February 14th WHO African Region from their official Twitter account confirmed 7 cases with the disease and among them, three have died. It seems the Ebola virus epidemic in 2021. The government of the country came into action due to these reported cases. Let’s have a quick overview of the disease in short.
Symptoms of Ebola virus disease
Symptoms of the disease are like flu symptoms initially. But when the disease progresses, the condition of the patient may also worsen.
Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, generalized weakness, soreness of the throat, loss of hunger, etc.
When the condition gets worsens, the patient may have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, bleeding from internal and external organs such as bleeding gums, blood in the stool or nose bleeding, damage to the different organs mainly the kidney and liver.
Animal to human transmission:
The virus can be transmitted to humans from infected animals like fruit bats, chimpanzees, monkeys, porcupines, gorillas, or forest antelopes via close contact with their blood, secretions, organs, and other fluids of the body, and by eating raw meat of these infected animals.
Human to human transmission:
This transmission occurs when direct contact with the human has symptoms of ebola virus disease.
The disease spread through direct contact with body fluids or blood contact of the diseased or dead person.
Another way of transmission is direct and unsafe contact with various objects that are contaminated with body fluid or secretions such as vomit, blood, and feces of the person who is suffering from the disease.
Who is at higher risk of getting the Ebola virus?
Health Care workers who treat patients suffering from the disease without safety measurements are at higher risk.
Persons who died from the disease and unsafe burial ceremonies are performed. In these cases, all the people with direct contact are at higher risk.
Pregnant women suffering from acute Ebola illness may transfer the virus. The virus is also found in breastmilk and breastfeeding can also be a mode of transmission to the child. So screening of the breastmilk should be done before breastfeeding.
People who eat the raw or uncooked meat of infected animals are at higher risk.
Suspected cases can be diagnosed with the Ebola virus infection by different tests such as:
Antibody capture by ELISA method
Rapid antigen test for Ebola virus
Serum neutralization test
RT-PCR test that is reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction for Ebola
Cell culture can also isolate the virus
Automatic or semi-automated nucleic acid test (NAT) for Ebola
Presently there is no specific medicine available that can cure the disease. However, in DRC multidrug randomized control trial which includes a combination of multiple drugs is under trial from the outbreak of 2018-2019.
Early management and supportive care with oral or intravenous rehydration of the patient can save from the seriousness of the disease.
Other of supportive treatment include blood transfusion whenever necessary and immunotherapy may also help
Prevention and control
- Social awareness and educating the community help a lot.
- Avoid direct and unsafe contact with wildlife animals and their secretions that are the source of the infection. Avoid consuming their raw and uncooked meat.
- Wear gloves and take all safety measurements while treating or taking care of the person who is suffering from the disease.
- Have a safe practice of burial ceremony of the person who died due to the disease.
- Men who suffered from the disease may have the virus in their semen. So they can also transmit the virus. Avoid sex or have safe sex until their semen tests negative two times for the virus.
- Pregnant women who have survived the disease should be evaluated very well with frequent antenatal care. She should deliver a baby in a safe way to prevent possible infection. Also, screen breastmilk for the virus before commencing breastfeeding.
- A vaccine named rVSV-ZEBOV is helpful to prevent against Zaire strain of the virus.
Ebola Virus FAQs
Can the Ebola virus transmit via sex?
Yes. Ebola virus was found in the semen of men who were infected with the disease. So safest practice for a physical relationship should be followed for at least 12 months from the appearance of the first symptom or until the semen is negative consecutively two times for the virus. Also, avoid contact with blood or other body fluids and keep washing your hands with soap and water frequently.
What is the incubation period of the Ebola virus?
When any disease-producing germs enter the body, it is suddenly don’t causes the disease or symptoms. It takes some time to replicate or multiply in the body. The period between exposure to an infectious agent and the appearance of the symptom is known as the incubation period.
For the Ebola virus, the incubation period is 2 to 21 days. The disease doesn’t spread to others when the infected person doesn’t have any symptoms.
What is the death rate of Ebola virus disease?
An averaged death rate also called fatality or mortality rate for the EVD is around 50%. But it may vary from 25 % to 90%. Early supportive care and good management of the cases have good recovery results or outcomes.
Is there any vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus?
Yes. The vaccine is available that protects against the Ebola virus is the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine also named Ervebo. This vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the US (FDA) on the 19th of December 2019. A single dose of the vaccine is administered. But it provides protection against only the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. There is also a two-dose vaccine available but it is not approved by FDA yet.