Ebola is a highly-contagious hemorrhagic virus that breaks down the
epithelial cell wall of blood vessels and triggers extensive internal
and external bleeding.
File image by the CDC shows an ebola Virus. (AP Photo/CDC, File)
How do humans catch it?
From animals, through close contact with infected animals’ blood,
secretions, organs or other bodily fluids. The bushmeat trade (the
catching and eating of wild animals), is thought to play a role in
outbreaks of the disease.
How does it spread?
Once in the human population, the virus continues spreading through
direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids. It
spreads quickly through human-to-human transmission, as family and
friends care for infected people
Who are at risk?
Healthcare workers and family members have frequently been infected
while treating Ebola patients. The virus has also been known to spread
at burials where mourners touch the body.
Medical personnel wear personal protective
equipment as he they care for Ebola patients at the case management
center on the campus of ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. (Reuters
What are the symptoms?
Ebola is often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense
weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by
vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in
some cases, both internal and external bleeding such as from the nose or
via a person’s urine.
Early symptoms such as rashes and red eyes are common, making it hard
to diagnose in the early stages. Symptoms can appear from two to 21
days after exposure.
How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment or vaccine available to people or
animals. Patients believed to have caught the virus must be isolated to
prevent further contagion. They can only be given supportive care to
keep them hydrated. There are a handful of experimental drug and vaccine
candidates for Ebola and while some have had promising results in
animals including monkeys, none has been rigorously tested in humans.
What is the fatality rate?
Historically, it has a 90% fatality rate, but the current outbreak is killing 60% of those infected.
Medical personnel transport a person who
died from the Ebola virus in the Case Management Center in Foya,
Liberia. (Reuters Photo)