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The Ebola virus causes Ebola fever, a hemorrhagic disease. Ebola fever has a 90% fatality rate. The victim dies by hemorrhaging and shock within a week of the first symptoms. The virus can incubate inside its host for 2-21 days before the first symptoms appear. During this time the virus can be passed to others. Initially a person who has contracted Ebola has a headache, fever, muscle pains, and fatigue. Then comes vomiting, diarrhea, and massive bleeding from all body orifices. Finally the host dies from loss of blood or shock.
There is no treatment, no cure, or vaccine for Ebola. There is no prevention either, besides avoiding it, and since itís microscopic that is hard to do. To keep it from spreading, improved quarantines and precautions in hospitals must be applied. The Ebola virus is fortunately not very contagious, it is only spread by contact with a carrierís blood or body fluid containing the virus. Many different strains of Ebola exist, but not all are dangerous to humans.
Ebola and Marburg are types of filoviruses, or thread viruses. Filoviruses reduce the number of platelets in oneís blood. The blood thins and cannot clot. Filioviruses cause massive hemorrhaging that usually results in death. Humans or non-humans can carry filoviruses. Marburg is similar to Ebola and both are commonly carried by monkeys. Marburg was isolated in 1967, at an outbreak in Marburg, Germany. Lab workers caught Marburg from infected monkeys imported from Uganda.
Ebola was discovered in 1976 in Northern Zaire near the Ebola River when people began dying of viral hemorrhagic fever. Since then there have been many minor cases, and two major outbreaks. In 1979 there was an outbreak in Zaire and Sudan. Just four years ago, in 1995, there was a major outbreak in Kikwit, Zaire, only 125 miles from Kinshasa, the capital. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this outbreak over in August 1995. Out of the 315 people who contracted Ebola, 244 had died. Soon after was a minor outbreak in Gabon in February 1996.
Scientists never did isolate the origin of Ebola. They deem certain areas potentially dangerous, but they have never found exactly what spreads the disease. They hypothesize that it probably lives in some wild animal without harming it. The animal (or species) roams around, spreading the virus, but never dying itself. This carrier would be ideal for the virus, since it can coexist with the host without killing it.
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. ©1997
Websterís Interactive Encyclopedia, ©1998