Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans that causes bleeding inside and outside the body. As the virus spreads through the body, it damages the immune system and organs. Ultimately, it causes levels of blood-clotting cells to drop. This leads to severe, uncontrollable bleeding.
The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. It was first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in South Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.
The virus family Filoviridae includes three genera: Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus, and Ebolavirus. Ebola is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. There are five identified Ebola virus species: Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus); Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus); Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus); and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus). The fifth, Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus), has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.
It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
People get Ebola through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes like eyes, nose, or mouth with blood or body fluids including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola, from needles and syringes, which have been contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick with Ebola or the body of a person who has died from Ebola, infected fruit bats or primates like apes and monkeys, and possibly from contact with semen from a man who has recovered from Ebola. People pass it to others through their body fluids. Blood, stool, and vomit are the most infectious, but semen, urine, sweat, tears, and breast milk also carry it. Ebola transmit trough mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, or a break in skin. People can’t get Ebola from casual contact, like sitting next to an infected person. Air, food, and water don’t carry the virus. But kissing or sharing food or a drink with someone who has Ebola could be a risk, since you might get his saliva in your mouth. Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids. Ebola also can be spread through direct contact with objects like clothes, bedding, needles, syringes/sharps or medical equipment that have been contaminated with infected body fluids. Additionally, people can become sick with Ebola after coming in contact with infected wildlife. People remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus. It is also possible that Ebola could be spread through sex or other contact with semen from men who have survived Ebola.
The Ebola virus causes a viral hemorrhagic fever, a set of severe illnesses that are multisystem in that they affect several of the body’s regulatory systems. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. Symptoms are the sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, severe headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding like oozing from the gums, blood in the stools. Some patients may also develop a rash, red eyes, hiccups, chest pains and difficulty breathing and swallowing.
Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes. Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. Antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, antigen-capture detection tests, serum neutralization test, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, electron microscopy, virus isolation by cell culture diagnostic procedure for confirmation that symptoms are caused by Ebola virus.
Samples from patients are an extreme biohazard risk; laboratory testing on non-inactivated samples should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions. There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. Use practice careful hygiene. Wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids such as urine, feces, saliva, sweat, urine, vomit, breast milk, semen, and vaginal fluids.
Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment. Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola. Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals. Avoid contact with semen from a man who has had Ebola until you know Ebola is gone from his semen.
Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply extra infection control measures to prevent contact with the patient’s blood and body fluids and contaminated surfaces or materials such as clothing and bedding. Practice proper infection control and sterilization measures. Samples taken from humans and animals for investigation of Ebola infection should be handled by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories. When in close contact of patients with Ebola, health-care workers should wear face protection, a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves and should take care of basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of personal protective equipment to avoid splashes or other contact with infected materials, safe injection practices and safe burial practices.
Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing to reduce the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat.
Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission from direct or close contact with people with Ebola symptoms, particularly with their bodily fluids.