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Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Information

  • Published: 2014-04-17 (Revised/Updated 2016-02-02) : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Information relating to Ebola hemorrhagic fever a currently un-treatable virus with potential to create world outbreaks.

(Ebola hemorrhagic fever - EHF) is the human disease caused by ebola viruses. Symptoms start 2 days to 3 weeks after contacting the virus with a fever, throat and muscle pains, and headaches. There is then nausea, vomiting and diarrhea along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. At this point some people begin to have problems with bleeding. Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

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"The fact that it is still unknown exactly how people are infected with Ebola HF means there are few established primary prevention measures."

Ebola hemorrhagic fever or, 'Ebola HF,' is one of a number of Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe and many times fatal disease in people and non-human primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys. Ebola HF is caused by infection with a virus of the family, 'Filoviridae,' genus Ebola-virus. When an infection happens, symptoms usually start quickly.

The first Ebola-virus species was discovered in the year 1976 in what has become the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since that time, outbreaks have appeared sporadically. The Ministries of Health (MoH) of both Liberia and Guinea and the World Health Organization (WHO) have reported an outbreak of Ebola HF in several Liberian and Guinean districts.

Chart showing the 5 identified subspecies of ebola virus
About This Image: Chart showing the 5 identified subspecies of ebola virus
There are 5 identified subspecies of Ebola-virus. 4 of the 5 have caused disease in people:

The 5th subspecies, Reston virus, has caused disease in non-human primates, but not in people.

The natural reservoir host of ebola-viruses is something that remains unknown at this time. On the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses; however, researchers believe the virus is, 'zoonotic,' or, 'animal-borne,' with bats being the most likely reservoir. 4 of the 5 subtypes happen in an animal host native to the continent of Africa.

A host of similar species is most likely associated with Reston virus, which was isolated from infected cynomolgous monkeys imported to America and Italy from the Philippines. A number of workers in the Philippines and in American holding facility outbreaks became infected with the virus, yet did not become sick.

Transmission of Ebola

Due to the fact that the natural reservoir of ebola-viruses has yet to be proven, the manner in which the virus first appears in a person at the beginning of an outbreak remains unknown. Researchers; however, have hypothesized that the first person becomes infected through contact with an infected animal. When an infection does happen in people, there are a number of ways in which the virus may be transmitted to others. These ways may include direct contact with the blood or secretions of a person who is infected, or exposure to objects such as needles that have become contaminated with infected secretions.

The viruses that cause Ebola HF are many times spread through family members and friends because they come in close contact with infectious secretions while caring for others who are sick. During outbreaks of Ebola HF, the disease spreads rapidly within healthcare settings such as in hospitals or clinics. Exposure to ebola-viruses may happen in healthcare settings where staff members are not wearing appropriate protective gear such as gloves, gowns, and masks.

Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments such as syringes and needles is important. If instruments are not disposable they need to be sterilized before they are used again. Without adequate sterilization of these instruments, virus transmission might continue and amplify the outbreak.

Signs and Symptoms of Ebola

Several symptoms of Ebola HF exist. The symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-21 days after a person is exposed to ebola-virus. People usually experience symptoms within 8-10 days.

Symptoms of Ebola HF May Include:
A Rash
Red Eyes
Chest pain
Sore throat
Stomach pain
Lack of appetite
Difficulty breathing
Difficulty swallowing
Joint and muscle aches
Bleeding inside and outside of the body

Some people who become sick with Ebola HF do recover; other people do not. The reasons why are not fully understood. It is known; however, that people who die from Ebola HF usually do not develop a significant immune response to the virus at the time of their death.

Diagnosing Ebola

Diagnosing Ebola HF in a person who has become infected for only a few days is hard because the early symptoms, such as a skin rash and red eyes, are non-specific to ebola-virus infection and are often times seen in people with more common diseases. If a person presents with early symptoms of Ebola HF; however, and there is reason to believe that Ebola HF should be considered, the person should be isolated and public health professionals should be notified. Samples from the person may then be collected and tested in order to confirm the infection.

Treating Ebola

The standard treatment for Ebola HF remains limited to supportive therapy. The therapy consists of balancing the person's electrolytes and fluids, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure, as well as treating them for any complicating infections. Timely treatment of Ebola HF is important yet challenging because the disease is hard to diagnose clinically in the early stages of infection. Early symptoms such as fever and headache are non-specific to ebola-virus and infection might be initially misdiagnosed.

Preventing Ebola Infections

Prevention of Ebola HF presents several challenges. The fact that it is still unknown exactly how people are infected with Ebola HF means there are few established primary prevention measures. When infections do occur, there is increased risk of transmission, particularly in healthcare settings. Due to this increased risk, healthcare workers must be able to recognize an infection with Ebola HF and be ready to employ practical viral hemorrhagic fever isolation precautions or barrier nursing techniques. They should also have the ability to request diagnostic testing or to prepare samples for shipping and testing at other locations. Barrier nursing techniques include the following:

The goal of these techniques is to avoid contact with the secretions or blood of a person who is infected with the virus. If a person with Ebola HF dies, it is just as important that direct contact with the body of the person who has died be prevented.

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