The deadly Ebola virus disease

The Ebola virus disease, clinically referred to as Ebola haemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF), is a rare but severe haemorrhagic fever that is one of the most potent viral diseases known to humankind. The disease affects both humans and non-human primates like monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas often with fatal consequences. The Ebola HF was first recognized in 1976 and has appeared sporadically since then.

Types of Ebola

Five types of the Ebola virus disease have been identified. Four out of the five cause disease in humans: Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Bundibugyo and Ebola-Ivory Coast. The last of the five types of the disease, Ebola-Reston, causes disease only in non-human primates. The Zaire and Sudan species have been associated with widespread outbreaks of Ebola HF in Africa and the death of 25-90% of all reported clinical cases in the continent.

Infection and transmission of the Ebola virus

The exact origin, natural habitat and manner in which the Ebola virus first appears is as yet unknown. Infection, however, occurs through contact with an infected animal. Transmission is through direct contact with the blood, body tissues and fluids of infected persons as well as handling of dead or sick infected animals like fruit bats, forest antelopes and chimpanzees.

Symptoms of Ebola HF

The symptoms of Ebola HF occur abruptly and are characterised by headache, sore throat, joint and muscle aches, general weakness and fever. These symptoms are followed by stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Other symptoms that may occur include red eyes, hiccups, rash and internal and external bleeding.

Treatment for infection with Ebola HF

No standard treatment of the Ebola HF exists. Patients are given supportive therapy as treatment, which consists of maintaining the patient’s blood pressure and oxygen levels, balancing their electrolytes and body fluids and treating any opportunistic infections that complicate the disease.

Confirmed cases

Cases of the Ebola virus disease have been confirmed in Sudan, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ivory Coast. Several research workers in Italy and United States handling imported monkeys from the Philippines were also infected with the Ebola-Reston virus, but they did not fall ill. More recent cases of the disease were reported across Uganda in July 2012 with confirmed fatalities. No confirmed cases of the Ebola virus disease has ever occurred in the UK.

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