Known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF), and there are five Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers currently known. It is a severe and many times fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees.
1.) Humans are not the natural host for the disease but once they have it they can pass it to other humans. Experts believe that the first person in any outbreak contacted the disease from an infected animal. Animals that can spread the disease to humans include gorillas, forest antelopes, cynomolgus monkeys and chimpanzees.
In Africa, people can become infected by handling infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest.
The incubation period is from 2-21 days. Males who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen, for up to 7 weeks after recovery from the illness.
Once someone is infected, they can spread the disease to other humans through blood, mucus, salvia and other body secretions. Typically, health care workers/care givers are the first infected when an outbreak occurs. The symptoms mimic other diseases in some cases, so it is not until advanced symptoms appear that they realize it is Ebola.
If Ebola could be detected or suspected as the cause earlier then health workers could take preventive measures to help slow or even stop the spread. You have to be in close contact with an infected person or animal to contact the disease. Contaminated needles will also spread Ebola.
Protective measures must be taken such as wearing protective clothing, gloves, face masks and eye protection. Bedding and clothing of a sickened person must be properly disposed of to help prevent the spread. Bodies of the deceased must be handled properly as well to prevent the spread of the disease.
2.) Humans are not considered natural hosts for Ebolaviruses, but the natural reservoir host is not entirely clear either, but it appears to be zoonotic, meaning animal-borne. Experts believe that bats are a carrier and one of the most likely reservoirs. This means the bats can carry the disease without showing any signs of the disease. They appear to have an immunity to it.
Five identified subspecies of Ebolaviruses are known to exist. Out of those five, four can cause the disease in humans.
There is the Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus) a Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus), the Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, known formerly as Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus) and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus). The fifth, Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus), has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans (CDC, 2014).
3.) Symptoms that are recognizable early on, (these symptoms can be caused by other diseases as well) include severe headache, fever along with joint and muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and severe stomach pain. The disease can also cause red eyes and rashes along with internal as well as external bleeding. Hiccups are sometimes associated with the disease as well.
4.) Up to 90 percent of the people infected with Ebola die from it. Other experts put the mortality rate at between 50 and 90 percent. There is no cure (no vaccine) so supportive therapy is the only treatment. Therapy includes balancing body fluids, maintaining oxygen levels and blood pressure. Additionally most patients are treated for infections, because of impaired immune systems caused by Ebola. Because it is a virus antibiotics have no impact on Ebola.
The first Ebolaviruses species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Outbreaks since then have appeared sporadically.
5.) To date Ebola has not caused diseases in the United States. However, in the 1990’s a research team in Virginia became infected with a type of Ebola (Ebola-Reston). The disease was passed from a primate, which had been imported. The disease did not cause any symptoms in the humans but was fatal to the monkey (CDC, 2014).
CDC. (2014, July). Retrieved 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/