Are you looking for Ebola virus information or facts about Ebola virus disease including what causes it or where did it come from, how is it transmitted, history of including the various outbreaks? We will cover all that including Ebola cure, vaccine, symptoms, prevention and much more.
Quick facts about Ebola
Before we look at provided information on Ebola in details, here are some important quick facts about this disease you deserve to know.
- There are 5 species of viruses that cause Ebola that has been discovered so far, four of which affect human beings and the fifth one does not.
- The exact reservoir for its virus is not known but it is thought to be fruit bats intestines.
- It is one of the many hemorrhagic fevers this was initially called Ebola hemorrhagic fever but it’s not known as Ebola Virus Disease, EVD
- It is an infectious and contagious disease that is spread by direct contact of fluids (including feces, vomit, urine, sweat, semen, spit, and other body fluids of any kind) or blood from an infected person or surface.
- It can be transmitted sexually through semen of the Ebola survivors.
- Infected persons cannot spread until they have developed Ebola symptoms or signs
- It is not water, food or airborne i.e. you cannot catch Ebola by any of these means
- The Ebola incubation period is between 2-21 days with most patients showing symptoms between the 8th and 10th day from the time of infection.
- There is no Ebola virus cure as of now. Most treatment focus on dealing with its signs and symptoms and well as dealing with other infections that might arise.
- There is not approved Ebola vaccine at the moment. Most of the vaccines are still in trial phases.
- According to WHO, “Case fatality rate for this viruses is 90%,” although actual statistics show a lower value.
- It is one of the zoonotic virus i.e. it originates from animals that are not human beings and spreads to human beings.
- Common animals that have been found infected by the disease include gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelopes, porcupines, and chimpanzees.
- Although not waterborne, you should know that according to recent study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Drexel University – both in Philadelphia – and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, it was established that “Ebola can survive in detectable concentrations in wastewater for 8 days:
Having known a few of those quick facts, let us now commence with a deeper coverage.
What is Ebola virus disease – information
Ebola or Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as initially, according to CDC, is a “rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species. Ebola can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).”
It is one of the viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF), that belongs to the family of Filoviridae while its genus Ebolavirus. These of virus which are responsible for Ebola infection and it is thought that the “pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts” [who.int]
What causes it
We have already mentioned the fact that it is caused by viruses. So far, five species of Ebola causing viruses have been discovered with four of them causing infection in human being while the fifth virus causes this infection in other primates and not humans.
The species’ that affect human being (i.e. cause infection in humans) are Zaire ebolavirus; Sudan ebolavirus, Bundibugyo ebolavirus initially knows as Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus and the Taï Forest ebolavirus.
On the other hand, the Reston ebolavirus was found to affect only non-human primates. We will see more details on each of these virus species while looking at the outbreaks, a number of infected cases as well as death that arose from the infections.
History and where did it come from
If you recently came across Ebola virus news or warnings and you are wondering what the heck is this scary infection, calm down, it has been there for a while i.e. more than 4 decades now. In fact, to be precise, the Ebola virus history reveals that, it discovered near River Ebola in 1974 in the then country known as Zaire, and known as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We will cover more on this disease history while looking at outbreak cases.
Where did it
The actual reservoir the causing virus is not known as of now. However, it is largely believed that the viruses are animal-borne with the bats being considered as the reservoir i.e. “Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are thought to be the natural host, but various types of monkey can carry the virus too” [www.gov.uk].
How deadly is EVD initially the Ebola hemorrhagic fever
Although many people panic at the mention of Ebola, you deserve to know that according to MIT’s Maimuna Majumder, a biostatistician and epidemiologist, “the cumulative average considering all Ebola cases and deaths from 1976 to the present is actually closer to 60-to-65% and the current outbreak has a CFR (Causality Fatality Rate) of about 54% “[futurism.com].
However, from the many cases, we have seen, you will agree that CFR varies from one country to another as well as one outbreak to another.
Transmission or how does it spread
We have briefly looked at the causes. It is worthwhile mentioning something on Ebola virus transmission since this part will be key in prevention. Be keen not confuse the causes and how the virus spreads. Note that the virus will be infectious irrespective if the infected person or primate that has the virus in its blood is dead or alive i.e. “after testing swabs and tissue samples from the bodies of deceased Ebola-infected monkeys, scientists determined the virus can stay alive for up to 7 days in a dead victim,” ]www.medicalnewstoday.com]
How does it reach humans?
Since the host of Ebola is thought to be non-human primates, this deadly disease can be introduced to human beings through any “close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.” This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
How does it spread among human beings
Again, according to World Health Organization WHO, for the case of human to human transmission, it spreads “via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids”
There have been cases of even health workers getting infected with Ebola while dealing with patients or those suspected with EVD. This occurs when health workers come in close contact with the suspected or diagnosed Ebola victims without following the correct procedures for infection control.
Burials have been another source of Ebola transmission since some people come to direct contact with the dead person(s) without knowing this also can infect them.
Ebola Sexual transmission
Believe it or not, there have been cases of this transmitted through sexual contact especially among male survivors i.e. the virus was found in their semen. To avoid such transmission, survivors (male) should practice safe sex (abstaining, and/or correct use of condoms) until their semen tests negative of the virus.
WHO recommends a test of semen after 3 months from the time the person gets infected and if he tests positive, the test should be done monthly until the semen tests negative two consecutive times.
Furthermore, male survivors are also expected to keep good personal hygiene for at least 12 months from the time they experienced Ebola symptoms or until their semen tests negative twice. Ensure proper hygiene when one comes in contact with semen including during masturbation. Furthermore, carefully handle of used condoms for people whose semen tests positive for it.
Incubation period – how long before Ebola signs show
The incubation period for Ebola virus disease is about 2 to 21 one days i.e. the duration between when one gets infected to the time one develops symptoms. During this period, humans are not infectious but will soon become infections once they have developed the various symptoms. Let us now look at the main signs of Ebola that the victims will have.
Signs and Symptoms
Perhaps, another important part of managing this much feared viral disease is knowing the various Ebola virus symptoms you expect. Of course, as already mentioned, the symptoms will start showing once the incubation period is over and they occur abruptly.
First symptoms in patients
Once you have been infected by this virus and the incubation period is over, some of the very first symptoms you are likely to experience will include the following:
- Sudden fatigue and fever
- Muscle pain
- A sore throat accompanied by a headache
These symptoms are not very specific to Ebola but rather general ones. It is very difficult to guess it is this disease. However, seeing a professional health care personnel early is highly recommended as well as isolation to avoid spread. This is if there is an Ebola outbreak around you or you came traveled through regions prone or have outbreaks.
Serious Ebola symptoms
After the first symptoms, there are more serious symptoms which are going to be a definite indicator you have a serious problem that could be Ebola. Se healthcare worker in case of:
- Unexplained bruising
- Lack of appetite
- Impaired liver and kidney functions
- Internal and external bleeding for some cases such as blood oozing from gums and in stool
Other possible symptoms shown in some Ebola patients include chest pain, hiccups, difficulties in breathing, red eyes and difficulties in swallowing. And if you lab tests will show low platelets and white blood cells as well as high levels of liver enzymes, it is likely to be Ebola.
The above what used to known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever symptoms alone are not enough. A diagnosis is still required.
By symptoms alone, it is not easy to say if it is Ebola, Malaria, Meningitis, typhoid fever, etc. There should be confirmation procedures to ascertain it is EVD that involves:
- ELISA (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
To have a glimpse what it is, here are a few pictures and photos of Ebola victims. These pictures are only meant for illustration and to help in recognition of the recognition of some of the symptoms you expect.
Cure and treatment drugs
Currently, there is not proven Ebola cure available. However, a number of potential virus treatments are still under evaluation which could revolve around blood products, drug therapies and immune therapies.
Despite the fact that there is no cure for, all is not lost. Healthcare professionals can increase survival chances of people with Ebola through treating specific symptoms. This will include things such as rehydration through intravenous or oral fluids, stabilizing blood pressure and maintaining oxygen. Furthermore, healthcare practitioner should try to treat any other infection that might arise.
Obviously, there has been some Ebola survivors. How comes some people survive while others don’t not. Survival chances depend on the quality of survival support provided as well as a person’s immune response. This should not mean there is a specific treatment for some people.
On drugs, an experimental drug ZMapp, has already been used, for treating Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. However, its results and effectiveness have not been determined or cannot be verified as of now.
Is there an Ebola Vaccine?
If you are wondering whether there is an Ebola virus vaccine yet, the answer is No. As FDA states “There is No Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccines or therapeutics available for prevention, postexposure, or treatment for EVD. Clinical management of EVD should focus on supportive care of complications, such as hypovolemia, electrolyte abnormalities, hematologic abnormalities, refractory shock, hypoxia, hemorrhage, septic shock, multiorgan failure, and DIC”
Most of the vaccines are in Phase I trial with some phase II trials being conducted in West Africa. See more details on various trials on Ebola. Currently, GlaxoSmithKline, NewLink Genetics and Johnson & Johnson are working on an experimental vaccine.
One notable fact is that some Ebola victims who “recover from Ebola develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It isn’t known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola” [cdc.gov]. This is a glimpse of hope that it might soon get a vaccine.
In fact, according to Medical News Today, “one vaccine, called Ebola ca Suffit, was found to be 100% effective in a trial involving 4,000 people in Guinea” [medicalnewstoday.com].
Effects on people with it
Besides the symptoms and death, there are have been noted some Ebola effects which are often long terms especially the vision and joint problems. There are also effects on population, social economic and psychological effects on families.
Ebola outbreak, cases, an epidemic
Since 1976’s discovery of Ebola, there has been a number of Ebola virus outbreaks. We are going to briefly look at those epidemic cases and where they happened, mentioning something mall on the number of people who were infected by this virus and/or died. The various cases will be covered under the species that caused the Ebola virus infection.
Zaire virus epidemic cases
The Zaire virus has had a number of reported cases and deaths in various countries. To begin with, in 1976, in Yambuku area (where it was discovered) in DRC, 318 cases and 280 deaths were reported. Later in 1977 in Tandala village DRC, 1 case, 1 death was reported. 18 years later, in 1994 Gabon reported 52 cases and 31 deaths in Mékouka as well as other camps for mining gold. Again in 1995, it struck DRC with Kikwit area affecting 315 people with 250 deaths.
In January 1996 to April, Gabon had 37 cases with 21 deaths after people in Mayibout area ate a chimpanzee. Again in July 1996 to 1997 January, Gabon reported 60 cases with 45 deaths in Booué and its surrounding.
Other places that reported the Zaire virus include in 1996 in South Africa with one 2 cases and 1 death after a medical researcher traveled to Johannesburg from Gabon, Russia with 1 one case, 1 death due to laboratory contamination the same year. Later between October 2001 and March 2002, there was 65 cases and 53 deaths reported in Gabon along Gabon – Republic of Congo border.
From 2001 to 2003 Republic of Congo reported a number of cases i.e. October 2001-March 2002 57cases and 43 deaths along Republic of Congo – Gabon Border, In December 2002 to April 2003 143 cases and 128 deaths in Mbomo and Kéllé and in November to December 2003 in Mbomo and Mbandza, there were 35 cases and 29 deaths reported.
Again Russia reported one case and death from laboratory contamination in 2004 while DRC had an outbreak in 2007 with 267 cases reported and 187 deaths in Kasai Occidental Province. Finally in December 2008-February 2009, there was an outbreak in DRC again in Mweka and Luebo with 32 reported cases and 15 deaths.
Sudan ebolavirus cases
The Sudan virus was first reported in Nzara, Maridi and its neighborhood in then Sudan, and now Southern Sudan in 1976 with 284 cases reported and 181 deaths. The same year, there was also one case in England with no death. It recurred again in the same place (Nzara and Maridi) in 1979 with 34 reported infections and 22 deaths.
Between 2001 and 2002 it occurred in Mbarara, Gulu, and Masindi districts in Uganda with 425 reported cases and 224 reported deaths.
In 2007, an outbreak was reported again in Southern Sudan with 17 causalities and 7 deaths in a place known as Yambio.
Other cases of the Sudan virus are 2011, Luwero district in Uganda with one reported case where the patient died, June-October 2012 in Kibaale District in Uganda with 11 cases and 4 deaths, and again in Luwero District between November 2012 to January 2013 with 6 cases and 3 deaths reported.
Ebola Taï virus cases
There has been only one cause of this species of Ebola in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) where a scientist got ill while carrying out an autopsy on a wild chimpanzee. There was no causality as the Ebola patient was successfully treated in Switzerland.
Bundibugyo virus cases
There have been two outbreak cases of the Bundibugyo virus formally known as Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus one in December 2007 to January 2008 in Bundibugyo District found on western part of Uganda with 149 cases and 37 deaths. Later, June 2012 to November in DRC there was an outbreak in Orientale in DRC with 36 cases reported and 13 deaths.
West Africa virus outbreak – Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal
There was a major global outbreak in various countries from March 2014 to present where 28652 cases were reported with11325 deaths. The virus largely affected in entire Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were affected which WHO reported being of the species Zaire.
Other countries affected but had very few cases include includes Nigeria (Lagos, Port Harcourt), Dakar in Segal, Madrid in Spain, Dallas and New York City in the USA, Bamako in Mali, Scotland, and England in the United Kingdom and Sardinia in Italy.
DRC also had a case of Ebola Virus with 66 people reported to be infected and 49 deaths. It occurred in a number of villages and was not related to the outbreaks in West Africa.
Ebola Reston virus
This virus has not so far caused any death on human beings and it is widely considered to affect other primates. Some of the cases include 1989 where according to CDC, “Ebola-Reston virus was introduced into quarantine facilities in Virginia and Pennsylvania by monkeys imported from the Philippines.”
There was a similar introduction in quarantined facilities in Virginia, and Texa in 1990 where four people developed antibodies but they were not affected i.e. asymptomatic and later in Texas quarantined facility in 1996 with no human infection. In both the cases, the monkeys were imported from the Philippines.
The Philippines have also reported cases of Reston virus 1989-1990 and 1996 with the previous 3 people being asymptomatic and latter having no humans were infected. Finally, in Italy, it happened in 1992 in a quarantined facility in Sienna with the introduction of Ebola Reston virus to monkeys imported from the Philippines where no human was infected.
Prevention and control
With no cure or treatment, perhaps the best shot we got is trying to prevent it from spreading in case of a breakout. So what are some of the preventive measures for this viral disease?
To begin with, World Health Organization recommends good “case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilization” as an intervention measure.
Secondly, increase awareness should be increased on Ebola infection and means to avoid transmission which would encompass things such as:
- Reducing risks transmission from world-life to human beings by not touching or eating raw infected fruit bats, monkeys, apes meat, etc. Use gloves in touching these animals and their blood and meet must be well cooked.
- Reducing risks of sexual transmission through use of condoms until one tests twice negative as well as good personal hygiene with regards to semen and sexual fluids.
- Reducing risks of transmission from one person to another by not coming in contact with an infected person’s fluids or blood that could be in bedding, medical equipment, needles, etc. You should also ensure proper hand washing and personal hygiene.
- Having good measures to manage any outbreaks through safe burials, quarantining people who might have come in contact with infected people for at least 21 days and ensuring good hygiene and a very clean environment.
- Avoiding facilities where infected people have been treated or are being treated.
- Manage pests especially primates
Healthcare workers infection prevention and management
There has been a number of Ebola infection cases on healthcare workers. This can be attributed to the fact that some healthcare workers not doing enough to contain this disease. Some of the good practices while dealing with Ebola epidemic includes:
- Ensuring you wear recommended Ebola personal protective equipment when within a meter from the source of infection.
- Isolating the Ebola-infected from those who are not infected
- Avoid any direct contact with any patient who has shown some of the signs and symptoms of Ebola.
- In case of a direct contact with an infected person fluid or blood, ensure officials know.
- Ensure you follow the correct control measures for infections and sterilization.
Resources and references