Ebola virus disease is a deadly viral infection caused by one of the five known species of the Ebola virus. Read this article to know more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Ebola virus disease is known by the other name Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It is a very rare disease, but can cause severe complications resulting in death even. This virus gets transmitted to humans from wild animals. The mortality rate varies in different countries, but about 50% of the infected population are known to die. It can occur suddenly, resulting in detrimental effects. Earlier, when it occurred suddenly earlier, scientists and doctors were not able to study the virus properly. So, the disease led to uncontrollable outbreaks in 1976. This outbreak occurred in a village near the river called Ebola. That is how the disease gets this name. This virus belongs to a family called Filoviridae.
The specific wild animals from which the Ebola virus is transmitted are bats. These animals are the natural hosts. Once it affects an individual, it can quickly spread to others by direct contact with blood and other bodily secretions. It can also be transmitted from animals that were sick or dead.
When there are any open wounds or burns, then it can get transmitted from the infected person to an uninfected one.
The objects that are contaminated by the affected person are called fomites. They could be anything such as the utensils, clothes, and the materials touched by the patient.
Unsafe sexual practices can also result in transmission of the disease.
Healthcare workers are highly prone to Ebola virus disease. Patients are known to be infectious as long as the virus stays in the blood.
The risk factors of Ebola virus disease are:
Pregnancy. The virus continues to stay in the amniotic fluid for a long time. It can affect both the mother and fetus in the long run.
Breastfeeding. There is a possibility of the baby acquiring the virus from the lactating mother.
Medical health conditions. Having other health issues might reduce immunity levels in patients. This increases risk.
Multiple sex partners. The risk is relatively high in patients who are promiscuous.
The incubation period for this disease ranges from 2 days to 21 days. It is after this duration the symptoms start showing up. If a person is known to be affected by an Ebola, he cannot transmit the infection until and unless the symptoms are clearly visible.
The symptoms of Ebola virus disease are:
Nausea and vomiting.
Bleeding of gums.
Blood in stools.
This disease is very difficult to diagnose because symptoms might resemble malaria, meningitis, fever, and typhoid. Ebola shows symptoms similar to the symptoms of pregnancy. The following tests are the best diagnostic methods for Ebola virus disease.
Serum neutralization test: Serum neutralization test can detect the presence of functional antibodies. This test can identify whether the virus particles have been neutralized by the medications.
Rapid antigen detection test: This test is used only for screening purposes. Additional reactive tests should be used for confirmation.
The possible treatment options are drug therapy and immunotherapy. In the recent outbreak from 2018 to 2019, a drug was identified, but the research is still under process. The treatment relies mainly on supportive care, which includes rehydration with intravenous and oral fluids. There is no proper treatment available for this disease. But it is possible to control the symptoms.
Supportive therapy: This might involve pain relief, offering comfort and counseling, and emotional support. Rehydration is constantly done and checked.
Intensive care: This involves maintaining oxygenation for patients with lung disorders and maintaining ideal dialysis procedures for kidney failure patients.
Safeguarding of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should take precedence over the remaining population. Vaccination should be made available to them first. Proper control of the outbreak depends on the intervention methods, proper surveillance of the cases, safe burial procedures of the dead, and isolation of the positive and suspected cases. Social distancing should be maintained, and gathering in common places should be avoided. Proper awareness is created among the public so that they will follow safe sanitation measures.
It is necessary to reduce the risk of transmission in animals such as monkeys, bats, apes, and porcupines.
Meat should be properly cooked and consumed. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before cooking.
The second step is to reduce the risk of transmission among humans. This can be achieved by practicing proper protection measures. For maintaining correct hygienic practices, gloves, mouth masks, goggles help. Regular hand washing should be practiced by the patients who are visiting the hospital. Hand Washing techniques should be followed by the persons delivering healthcare also.
If any of them are suspected, proper monitoring should be done by healthcare professionals for a minimum of 21 days. This is done to isolate any suspected positive case from healthy individuals.
Sexual contact can also be the reason for transmission. Safe sexual practices are to be followed. Contact with bodily fluids should be completely avoided.
In a healthcare setting, irrespective of the provisional diagnosis, all the instruments should be well sterilized. Sanitation should be followed throughout the hospital setup.
An experimental vaccine for Ebola was found to be very effective in guinea pigs during the year 2015. This vaccine showed a drastic change in the public. A vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV was used during the last outbreak of the Ebola virus.
Prognosis varies from one person to another. However, it is generally poor. If the virus has caused the destruction of the antibodies, then immunosuppression occurs. This reduces the capacity of the body to fight against the virus. But in most cases, if the infected person manages to survive, then it can indicate that the person might recover soon. Even after recovery, the person should follow up with their physician.
Are you facing any of these symptoms? Call a doctor online.
Last reviewed at:
04 Jan 2022 - 4 min read
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