Advertisement
Advertisement

The Ebola virus is rare and often deadly to those who contract it. There are five species of the virus, although only four are known to cause illness in humans. Contact with body fluids of people who have the illness or who have died from the virus is the primary method of transmission for this dangerous disease.

Advertisement

Causes of Ebola

Scientists believe Ebola first developed in animals and was transmitted to humans. It is a virus in the ebolavirus and Filoviridae family, and how exactly it transmits from animals to humans is unknown. In certain parts of the world, people have contracted Ebola from handling ill or deceased animals. In people, the virus becomes contagious as soon as symptoms present.

gevende / Getty Images

Advertisement

Transmission of Ebola

Contact with blood, mucus, saliva, urine, or feces is responsible for the transmission of Ebola. For instance, a person with a cut on their arm who touches the bodily fluids of an infected individual may contract the virus. The bodily fluids of animals such as fruit bats, monkeys, or chimpanzees can also carry the virus. People with the virus but no symptoms are not contagious.

RollingEarth / Getty Images

Advertisement

Symptoms of Ebola

People who encounter the Ebola virus will begin to experience symptoms between two and 21 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Blood tests may reveal low white blood cell counts, indicating a viral infection.

shironosov / Getty Images

Advertisement

Diagnosing Ebola

The Ebola virus is difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms can be attributed to other illnesses. To be diagnosed with Ebola, a person must have had contact with someone who has the virus or be exposed to the fluids or remains of a human or animal that carried it. Blood tests can show Ebola, but not until symptoms have been present for at least three days. If a doctor suspects Ebola, the patient will be quarantined to prevent an outbreak.

D-Keine / Getty Images

Advertisement

Treatment for the Ebola Virus

Doctors treat the symptoms of Ebola as they appear. Vomiting and diarrhea require medication or electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Ultimately, prognosis depends on the speed of treatment and the patient's immune system. Currently, there is no vaccine in widespread use for the Ebola virus, though scientists recently developed an investigational vaccine that appears to be effective.

Steve Debenport / Getty Images

Advertisement

Prevention

Since contact is responsible for spreading the Ebola virus, the most efficient way to prevent it is to practice proper handwashing and hygiene. Doctors recommend using hand sanitizers with an alcohol content of 60 to 90% and to wash with soap and water regularly. Plain soap without antimicrobial agents is best, as there is no proof that this germ-killing additive is effective on the Ebola virus. If hand sanitizer or soap is not readily available, medical providers recommend using a solution of chlorine and water to wash the hands in possible exposure situations. Of course, it is best to avoids areas with known Ebola outbreaks.

BethanyFank / Getty Images

Advertisement

History of the Ebola Virus

The Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 when two outbreaks occurred in central Africa, the first in a village near the Ebola River in the Congo. This is where the virus gets its name. The second outbreak occurred over 500 miles away, in Sudan. Doctors initially believed that people who were sick must have traveled between these two areas, but they later discovered the incidents came from two different versions of the virus.

Manjurul / Getty Images

Advertisement

Ebola Survival Statistics

Survival rates vary in different areas around the world. Ebola viruses contracted in Africa have lower survival rates of between 25 and 90 percent. According to the World Health Organization, the average rate of survival is around 50 percent, though infected individuals in areas where proper medical equipment and resources are available have much better rates. Early treatment and intravenous hydration may improve survival rates.

D-Keine / Getty Images

Advertisement

Complications and Risk Factors

When someone survives the Ebola virus, they may still encounter complications such as joint pain and vision problems. They also develop antibodies, but it is unknown if they can become sick again. The people who have the highest risk of Ebola are doctors and healthcare professionals who encounter the virus.

leoniepow / Getty Images

Advertisement

Ebola Outbreaks Around the World

Most outbreaks of the Ebola virus occur in Africa, with the most recent being in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces. The CDC is working closely with the local government to treat people and keep the virus contained.

Steve Debenport / Getty Images


Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.