What is the Ebola virus? What are the symptoms and treatment methods?

The short answer to the question of what is Ebola is a life-threatening viral infection that can cause high fever, progress with internal and external bleeding. This disease is caused by a microorganism called ebola virus. The Ebola virus has been recognized worldwide since the epidemics that broke out in Central Africa in the mid-1970s. The reason why the disease is important is the lack of an effective drug or vaccine to treat it, and many cases result in death.


What is the Ebola virus?

The Ebola virus causes a febrile illness that causes life-threatening bleeding, in which 50% to 90% of cases die. This virus is an RNA virus from the filoviruses family. Approximately 260 people died from the disease during the first epidemic.


How is the Ebola virus transmitted?

The origin of the Ebola virus is still uncertain. However, it is thought that some monkey species may be the main hosts for ebola. It is believed that fruit bats form the natural reservoir of the pathogen. One theory suggests that the virus infects monkeys, pigs and some other animals that eat fruit residues from bats.

The virus is transmitted to humans through contact with the blood and body fluids of animals. It can be transmitted directly from animals to humans, as well as from person to person through contact with blood and body fluids. The virus has been detected in all body fluids you can think of, such as urine, feces, vomit, tears and breast milk. An important risk group for infection consists of healthcare workers, as they are in close contact with patients.

Since there is no cure for the disease, prevention of contagion is essential in prevention. Therefore, sick animals should be quarantined as soon as possible. The corpses of dead animals must be carefully disposed of. Meat of these animals, especially raw meat should not be consumed.

5 different Ebola virus groups have been identified that cause the disease. Three of these viral groups have caused major epidemics in humans. Unlike many tropical infections, ebola virus infection has not been found to be transmitted through mosquito bites.



Ebola disease symptoms

The time between infection and the onset of symptoms varies between 2 and 21 days. Some of the important symptoms that can be seen are headache, widespread aches in the body, high fever, conjunctivitis in the eyes, bleeding, nausea and skin rash. In addition, kidney and liver dysfunctions can be seen. There is a decrease in the number of white blood cells and platelets in the blood count. Severe internal and external bleeding may occur, especially from the mucous membranes, even a few days after the onset of the disease.

All these symptoms that can be seen are not specific to Ebola disease, and other serious infections also cause fever, bleeding, and organ damage. This makes it difficult for doctors to make an accurate diagnosis at the beginning.

In the course of Ebola, failure of various organs often develops. Additionally, inflammation of the brain can occur, and this worsens the prognosis. Severe cases resemble septic shock and have a high mortality rate. The cause of death in the disease is usually heart failure.


Ebola diagnosis

Especially in the early stage of the disease, it is difficult to distinguish between ebola and some other diseases such as yellow fever, lassa fever, dengue fever or malaria. Therefore, patients should be quarantined in the early period in suspected cases.

The pathogen can be detected above all in the blood and also in the skin. Samples are taken to be examined for Ebola virus. Antibody formation against the virus usually occurs only in the advanced stages of the disease. Only private laboratories with very high security are permitted to work with the Ebola virus and to examine samples from patients suspected of having an Ebola infection.

If Ebola is suspected, the patient’s blood values are also closely monitored. In addition, close monitoring is required for bleeding or impaired organ function.



Ebola disease treatment

So far, no effective cure for ebola has been found, so the death rate is still very high. Likewise, there are no standard treatment recommendations. Treatment with an antiviral drug may be considered, but unlike similar viral diseases, it is unlikely to be successful.

Important for an ebola infection is that patients are placed in intensive care. Electrolyte and fluid support is important for successful treatment. For kidney failure, a rapid organ replacement procedure such as dialysis should be initiated. Unfortunately, in countries where ebola emerged (Central Africa), such medical interventions are often not possible.

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