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How We are Affected By The Ebola Virus

Updated on February 12, 2015
The Ebola Virus
The Ebola Virus

What is the Ebola Virus

The Ebola virus is a very serious and contagious virus thought to have originated through eating infected fruit bats in West Africa. If the bats are cooked well the virus is killed but if someone comes in contact with any uncooked fluids or droppings of the bat they can contract the virus.

Ebola is named after the area it was first discovered in. The Ebola River is very near the area where the disease was first seen.

There are 5 strains of ebola virus but 4 have stricken humans.

First seen in 1976, it was not until December of 2013 that several people in Africa were again stricken with the illness . Since the beginning of the virus outbreak thousands of people have lost their lives.

There is no approved vaccine or treatment for the viral illness. Two US doctors have been successfully treated in the US with experimental measures.

Recently an American in Africa flew home to Dallas Texas and was later diagnosed with ebola.

Pharmaceutical companies are working on a treatment and experimental tests have begun and have even been used on seriously ill individuals.

The ebola virus is not highly contagious. It has spread quickly in poor areas where sanitation is a problem. One must come in direct contact with body fluids of a victim with symptoms to contract the disease.

How the People Are Affected

Ebola has become a terrifying word as entire villages seem to be in quarantine in the far reaching areas of West Africa.

The fatality rate has risen to nearly 90%. Poor living conditions and lack of adequate means of detection and sanitation has made the job of patient care and even burying the dead a daunting task. Persons hired to help bury the dead are paid a mere $100 a week to pour chlorinated water over the dead and take swabs of their mouth to determine the cause of death.

In Africa ritual cleaning of dead relatives has been discouraged and stopped as much as possible because of the high risk of contracting the illness from someone with such a high amount of contaminated body fluid.

If an African was preparing their dead loved one for burial with ritual washing and came in contact with any body fluid be it vomit, blood, urine, or saliva, and then touched their own eye, mouth or open wound they would have a high chance of becoming ill.

A state of isolation and fear has fallen upon the most stricken areas.

What are the Symptoms?

When someone is in the early stages of the illness he may have a headache, general malaise, muscle pain and fever. The malaise can be compared to the worst case of flu you may have ever had

The disease then progresses to severe vomiting and severe diarrhea. In the late stages of the illness the patient may have elevated liver enzymes and kidney problems with increased blood platelets and/or Internal and external bleeding. External bleeding is not always seen as it was spoken of in biblical times but it is known to happen.

It is during the symptomatic stages that the patient is most contagious. This is why health officials are not worried about the passengers who traveled with an ebola victim returning home from Africa to Texas. At the time of travel he was asymptomatic.

People die within 2 to 21 days of developing symptoms depending on the severity of exposure, their health status, age and quality of care given among other things.

Many recover from the illness but may continue to feel achy and have headaches and general malaise for weeks.

Major Causes of Death in Africa

How Eblola compares to other illnesses.
How Eblola compares to other illnesses. | Source


A recovered nurse flies to the US for to give an emergency blood transfusion to a stricken ebola victim.
A recovered nurse flies to the US for to give an emergency blood transfusion to a stricken ebola victim. | Source

How is Ebola Spread?

Ebola is spread through direct contact with a patient. Before contracting the illness there needs to be an exchange of body fluids often through an open wound.

The illness is not contagious like the common cold. A person must touch vomit, saliva, blood, or other body fluid of a victim and then touch their own mouth, eyes or open wound.

It is mostly spread through direct contact when caring for an ill person. This is why we are seeing it primarily in health care workers and family members.

You can get the virus by sharing food with or kissing an ill person.

It can be spread through breast milk to a nursing infant. Mothers who fall ill must stop nursing their infant for up to six months.

It is also spread through sexual contact and is believed to live in and infected persons semen for up to 82 days.

It is theorized that the tradition in Africa to hug the dead may increase the spread of ebola among villages as loved ones bury their friends and families and in ritual burial washing as mentioned above.

It is also believed to be carried by animals in the Africa area, specifically when a diseased animal is used by the malnourished for food i.e. the fruit bat. This is only when the animal is not properly prepared and cooked.

The virus can live on infected surfaces such as door knobs or counters for several hours but It can be easily killed with disinfectant such as bleach.

It can live in body fluids for days following contraction.

Anyone with ebola needs extensive medical care. Persons caring for a victim must use strict hand washing and cleanliness to prevent self exposure and spreading the illness to others.

It takes approximately 2 to 6 days for the disease to manifest itself after exposure and then is only spread when symptoms appear.

The ebola virus is not airborne. It is not carried by mosquitoes and is an extremely rare illness.

To show how difficult it is to spread the disease one only needs to look at the case of a 1996 victim that was hospitalized at a high functioning hospital in Africa. He remained there for 12 days and none of the staff became ill. It was not until later that he was found to have been ill with ebola during that time.

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What is the future of the illness?

Officials in the United states, specifically the CDC has said it may take years to get this disease under control in West African Villages.

Some of the things that complicate isolating the virus include poor living conditions of many of the families that have been affected by it.

It is feared that the disease will become a world wide epidemic as people travel from one country to another. Screening methods are going to have to be instigated in the very near future as world travel to stricken areas continues.

On September 11, 2014 a breakthrough was found as an ebola victim was treated by a serum made from the blood of a US physician that had recovered from the illness. It is very hopeful that this could be a huge tool to aid in finding a cure.

ABC News The CDC on Highest Alert

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Treatment as we wait on a vaccine

As the CDC works to develop a vaccine, palliative care is the best we can do for most patients who have contracted the disease. These measures include replacing lost fluids from vomiting and diarrhea, giving blood to patients that have internal and external bleeding, treating other infections that may develop, treating blood pressure and giving oxygen. Finally patients need to be kept as comfortable as possible as well as preventive any cross contamination of the illness.

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As stated previously the disease is spread by direct contact therefore proper hand washing and sanitation is the the biggest line of defense.

Persons traveling to third world countries need to be aware of any outbreaks that may have occurred nearby. Strict travel screening may become necessary to slow down the spread of this deadly diseae.

In Conclusion

Whether or not Ebola becomes a world wide epidemic depends largely on how careful we are to isolate the sick and what measures are used to screen people leaving affected countries that might already be infected. Also developing a vaccine or other means of treatment will begin the eradication of the outbreak specifically in Africa.

One last thought on treatment and containment is how we will get dedicated nurses and doctors into the sick villages to care for the ill. Starvation and thirst is growing problem in these countries. Money will be needed not only for research but to send food, water and medical care to the villages that have been so stricken with this deadly illness.

It is important to keep this disease in perspective and realize that more people die from other illness' like Malaria and from drunken drivers than they do from ebola.

Manic hysteria is not needed or will it help the fight against ebola.



ABC News, Mayo Clinic, CDC, Vox News and Bing Images.


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