Written by: Joy Dong
In the current state of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have likely forgotten about the other infectious viruses/diseases that countries and continents have battled against. One of them being Ebola, an extremely dangerous and contagious illness that has claimed hundreds and thousands of lives since it was first noted in 1976. Many people who have lived in Africa have lost family members, friends and neighbors; so it is important to understand this disease in order to eradicate it, once and for all. In this article, you will read about the symptoms, treatments, history and origins of Ebola, and most importantly what this disease is.
What is Ebola and what are some treatment and prevention plans?
Ebola, also known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is suspected to come from wild animals, and more specifically fruit bats. There are five species of Ebola, four of which cause illness in humans and other primates. Ebola is severe, and causes death in up to 90% of the people who get infected. It damages the immune system and body organs. This disease causes blood-clotting cells to lower to a risky level. There is no cure for Ebola yet, but health care workers provide supportive and intensive care. This includes giving the body fluids, electrolytes, oxygen, blood pressure medicine, blood transfusions and treatment for symptoms. To keep health care workers safe, they need to be kept covered by wearing masks, gloves, goggles, and many layers of body suits. They also need to spray themselves with chlorine, which kills Ebola. During an Ebola outbreak, these workers try to manage the cases, which can be difficult, surveil all vulnerable areas, trace contacts of the virus, do lab tests, enforce safe burials, and inform villages. There is a vaccine being used and tested for this virus, called “RVSV-zEBOR”, and other drugs are being tested as well.
How does an Ebola outbreak begin, what are some symptoms and how does it spread?
Ebola spreads fast through communities and it is important to understand the symptoms and where this virus originates from. Fruit bats are the likely hosts of Ebola Virus. They may have then spread the virus to other wild animals, such as monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, fish, bears and even pigs. Humans likely handle these animals and get infected with the virus, and transfer it to each other by coming in contact with bodily fluids of an infected individual. Some of these fluids include blood, saliva, sweat, tears, mucus, vomit, and waste. Anything that has been in contact could be carrying the virus, such as bedding and clothing. It doesn’t take long for an entire family or village to get infected, especially those who care for the sick without proper training or protection. According to the Britannica School 1, “Symptoms of Ebola begin two to 21 days after infection.” However, it is important to note that someone with no symptoms cannot spread the virus, which makes it less dangerous than others.
Symptoms of Ebola include nausea, fever, body aches, diarrhea, uncontrollable bleeding internally and externally, sore throat, weakness, stomach pain, lack of appetite, vomiting, rash, coughing blood, leaking blood from body parts, pinkeye, and fatigue. The feeling of having Ebola can resemble influenza at first, but symptoms worsen over time. Death usually occurs because of kidney failure or shock. And, people who died from Ebola have the most contagious bodies, which is why unsafe African burial traditions can spread the virus. Survivors of Ebola often suffer from post-Ebola syndrome, which can cause chronic headaches, bad joint and muscle pain, blindness or vision problems, and fatigue.
What is the history of Ebola?
Ebola has a long and frightening history. The first outbreak occurred in 1976, near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is how the disease got its name. There was another outbreak later, and that year Ebola infected and killed more than all the other outbreaks combined. After that, there was not another outbreak until 2010. 2010’s Ebola outbreak wasn’t the worst, but it still claimed hundreds of lives. Later in 2014 and 2015, Ebola struck again. This time, it infected 28,600 people and took 11,300 lives. The disease spread all over central and southern African countries, such as Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Sierra Leone. Africa was Ebola-free until 2018, when it infected 2,800 and killed 1,800 people. During this time, some new treatment and methods were tested, but were not used on humans 2019, when there was yet another outbreak. This recent outbreak occurred in Congo, where the medicines and treatments helped cure 90% of the newly infected patients. Health care workers are still desperately working to abolish this deadly disease.
“Ebola has shown that the world is not ready to deal with an epidemic on this scale.” After reading this article, I hope you have grasped a deeper understanding about this disease and will help spread accurate, science-based information regarding it. Lastly, what we’ve learned from Ebola; how it spreads, how an outbreak begins, ways to treat and prevent it, can truly help us better understand and combat other diseases, such as the one we are dealing with now.