|Ebola virus disease|
|Classification and external resources|
Ebola virus disease (EVD), Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), or simply Ebola is a disease of humans and other primates caused by an ebolavirus. Symptoms start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pain, and headaches. Typically, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash follow, along with decreased function of the liver and kidneys. Around this time, affected people may begin to bleed both within the body and externally.
The virus may be acquired upon contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected human or other animal. Spreading through the air has not been documented in the natural environment. Fruit bats are believed to be a carrier and may spread the virus without being affected. Once human infection occurs, the disease may spread between people, as well. Male survivors may be able to transmit the disease via semen for nearly two months. To diagnose EVD, other diseases with similar symptoms such as malaria, cholera and other viral hemorrhagic fevers are first excluded. Blood samples are tested for viral antibodies, viral RNA, or the virus itself to confirm the diagnosis.
Outbreak control requires community engagement, case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, and safe burials. Prevention includes decreasing the spread of disease from infected animals to humans. This may be done by checking such animals for infection and killing and properly disposing of the bodies if the disease is discovered. Properly cooking meat and wearing protective clothing when handling meat may also be helpful, as are wearing protective clothing and washing hands when around a person with the disease. Samples of bodily fluids and tissues from people with the disease should be handled with special caution.
No specific treatment for the disease is yet available. Efforts to help those who are infected are supportive and include giving either oral rehydration therapy (slightly sweet and salty water to drink) or intravenous fluids. This supportive care improves outcomes. The disease has a high risk of death, killing between 25% and 90% of those infected with the virus (average is 50%). EVD was first identified in an area of Sudan that is now part of South Sudan, as well as in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The disease typically occurs in outbreaks in tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa. From 1976 (when it was first identified) through 2013, the World Health Organization reported a total of 1,716 cases. The largest outbreak to date is the ongoing 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, which is affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. As of 3 October 2014, 7,497 suspected cases resulting in the deaths of 3,439 have been reported. Efforts are under way to develop a vaccine; however, none yet exists.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease (EVD) usually begin suddenly with an influenza-like stage characterized by fatigue, fever, headaches, joint, muscle, and abdominal pain. Vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite are also common. Less common symptoms include the following: sore throat, chest pain, hiccups, shortness of breath, and trouble swallowing. The average time between contracting the infection and the start of symptoms (incubation period) is 8 to 10 days, but it can vary between 2 and 21 days. Skin manifestations may include a maculopapular rash (in about 50% of cases). Early symptoms of EVD may be similar to those of malaria, dengue fever, or other tropical fevers, before the disease progresses to the bleeding phase.
In 40–50% of cases, bleeding from puncture sites and mucous membranes (e.g., gastrointestinal tract, nose, vagina, and gums) has been reported. In the bleeding phase, which typically begins five to seven days after first symptoms, internal and subcutaneous bleeding may present itself in the form of reddened eyes and bloody vomit. Bleeding into the skin may create petechiae, purpura, ecchymoses, and hematomas (especially around needle injection sites). Sufferers may cough up blood, vomit it, or excrete it in their stool.
Heavy bleeding is rare and is usually confined to the gastrointestinal tract. In general, the development of bleeding symptoms often indicates a worse prognosis and this blood loss can result in death. All people infected show some signs of circulatory system involvement, including impaired blood clotting. If the infected person does not recover, death due to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome occurs within 7 to 16 days (usually between days 8 and 9) after first symptoms.
Bats are considered the most likely natural reservoir of EBOV. Plants, arthropods, and birds were also considered. Bats were known to reside in the cotton factory in which the first cases for the 1976 and 1979 outbreaks were observed, and they have also been implicated in Marburg virus infections in 1975 and 1980. Of 24 plant species and 19 vertebrate species experimentally inoculated with EBOV, only bats became infected. The absence of clinical signs in these bats is characteristic of a reservoir species. In a 2002–2003 survey of 1,030 animals including 679 bats from Gabon and the Republic of the Congo, 13 fruit bats were found to contain EBOV RNA fragments. As of 2005, three types of fruit bats (Hypsignathus monstrosus, Epomops franqueti, and Myonycteris torquata) have been identified as being in contact with EBOV. They are now suspected to represent the EBOV reservoir hosts. Antibodies against Zaire and Reston viruses have been found in fruit bats in Bangladesh, thus identifying potential virus hosts and signs of the filoviruses in Asia.
Between 1976 and 1998, in 30,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods sampled from outbreak regions, no Ebola virus was detected apart from some genetic traces found in six rodents (Mus setulosus and Praomys) and one shrew (Sylvisorex ollula) collected from the Central African Republic. Traces of EBOV were detected in the carcasses of gorillas and chimpanzees during outbreaks in 2001 and 2003, which later became the source of human infections. However, the high lethality from infection in these species makes them unlikely as a natural reservoir.
Transmission between natural reservoir and humans is rare, and outbreaks are usually traceable to a single case where an individual has handled the carcass of gorilla, chimpanzee or duiker. Fruit bats are also eaten by people in parts of West Africa where they are smoked, grilled or made into a spicy soup.