All About Ebola

The Ebola outbreak caused quite a scare throughout the world in 2014. The Ebola virus is a serious illness that can be fatal, if untreated. The 2014 outbreak is the largest and most complex outbreak since the first, with a death toll larger than all the other outbreaks combined. According to many sources Ebola has an average mortality rate of 50 percent. The disease was first discovered in 1976, when there were two outbreaks at the same time in separate places. One of these outbreaks was near the Ebola River in the Congo in Africa, hence the name, “ebola.”

Scientists think Ebola is naturally found in fruit bats. But how does this disease infect the human population? Direct contact with an infected animal's bodily fluids can transmit the virus. Direct contact with the bodily fluids of other humans, as well as materials and surfaces they have been in contact with is another way the Ebola virus moves around. Many health care workers get infected due to lack of proper safety precautions. Ceremonies that involve touching the body of the infected dead can also spread the disease. However it is extremely hard to actually catch Ebola.

The Ebola virus has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days. Until that time, people do not experience symptoms. The first symptoms people experience are fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, and sore throat. Later symptoms include vomiting, rash, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function, as well as internal and external bleeding from the mouth, eyes, nose, gums, and anus. The bleeding is caused by low white blood cell and low platelet counts as well as elevated liver enzymes.

It is hard to tell Ebola from other diseases like malaria, meningitis, and typhoid fever, but there are multiple tests to confirm whether someone has Ebola. Included are serum neutralization, electron microscopy, cell cultures, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), antigen-capture detection, and Antibody-Capture Enzyme-Linked Immunsorbent Assay (ELISA).

No formal or scientifically proven treatments or vaccinations exist for Ebola. The list of possible treatments is very long but none have proven to be 100 percent successful. However, there are two vaccines that are currently undergoing human testing.

[Source: World Health Organization]

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