Ebola virus disease (EVD), more commonly referred to as Ebola, is a rare and severe illness that can often be fatal. On average EVD fatalities is a result of fifty percent of all cases. However, case fatality rates range between twenty-five and ninety percent in previous outbreaks of EVD. The first recorded breakout of EVD was during 1976 in a village near the Ebola River, which is where the disease dawned the name ‘ebola virus disease.’ But the most recent outbreak throughout 2014 and 2016 was the most substantial and complicated outbreak since the initial discovery of the disease.
The Causes And Transmission Of EVD
Ebola was originally introduced to humans through close contact with blood, secretions, and other bodily fluids of infected animals like antelope, chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, and porcupines in the rainforest. Then, it is transmitted from human to human through direct contact of broken skin, blood, secretions, and other bodily fluids of infected people, as well as through coming into contact with surfaces and objects contaminated by the fluids. More research is needed to determine whether or not EVD can be contracted through sexual transmission. However, due to the transmission being through bodily fluids, it is speculated it could be a sexually transmitted disease.
The Signs And Symptoms Of EVD
The signs and symptoms of EVD may appear anywhere between two and twenty-one days after exposure. Although, the average onset of symptoms usually begins between the eighth and tenth day. Common symptoms of EVD include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, a fever, severe headache, muscle pain, nausea, weakness, and unexplained hemorrhaging, bleeding or bruising.
People with Ebola are not contagious or infectious until after they begin showing signs and symptoms of the disease. The first signs of EVD are fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat. These are usually shortly followed by the more severe symptoms, which include lower white blood cell counts and elevated liver enzymes.
The Persistence Of EVD
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported it is possible for EVD to be spread through the semen of men who have survived the disease. The truth is Ebola virus is a persistent disease that can remain somewhat dormant in immune-privileged sites in some of those who have recovered from it. The areas where it may remain dormant include the inside of the eye, the testicles, and within the central nervous system. It has also been reported the disease can persist in the placenta and fetus of those who were pregnant while infected.
A Diagnosis Of EVD
Diagnosing EVD can be very difficult within the first few days of infection, as the early symptoms are not specific to the disease. Often, patients with early symptoms can be misdiagnosed for more common diseases, such as malaria and meningitis. A patient showing early symptoms of EVD may need to be isolated and notified to public health authorities if they have come into contact with body fluids from someone with or has passed away from EVD, objects that may have been contaminated, infected animals, or have been sexually active with someone who has recovered from EVD. EVD can be diagnosed and detected by getting blood samples, but only after the symptoms have begun, which can take anywhere from two to twenty-one days.
Treatments For EVD
As of yet, there is no FDA-approved vaccine, medicine, or antiviral drug available to treat EVD. Each sign and symptom is treated individually as they appear in the patient. However, some basic interventions can help improve the chance of survival if treated early including intravenous fluids (IV), balancing electrolytes with body salts, maintaining oxygen and blood pressure, and treating infections as they arise.
Even if EVD is treated, it can sometimes result in long-term complications such as vision and joint issues. After treatment, the disease may still be found in some body fluids. The time it takes for the virus to entirely out of the body differs from patient to patient, but often will be out of the system within three to nine months. The risks of EVD are very high, but knowing the causes, signs, symptoms, and treatment are the first defenses against it.