Overview – What it is?
Ebola virus disease, also known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a fatal illness that is transmitted to people from animals and spreads through human-to-human transmission. A person who has been infected with the Ebola virus may experience fever, headache, pain in the muscles and a sore throat.
To confirm whether a person has Ebola, several tests like the ELISA test, a serum neutralization test, and an electron microscopy test, among others, are done, after which treatment can be offered.
Even though there is no specific treatment for the Ebola virus disease, there are a number of drug therapies, immune therapies and blood products that are currently being evaluated.
Ebola can be prevented by reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission and human-to-human transmission (including transmission during sexual intercourse).
Causes – What causes it?
Ebola is caused by one of the five different Ebola viruses. It is extremely infectious because even a small amount of the virus can cause illness. It is spread from one person to another through the following ways:
- Direct human contact through broken skin and mucous membrane of an infected person, and through blood and bodily fluid secretions of infected people.
- Through materials and surfaces such as beddings and clothing, contaminated with infected fluids.
- Through sexual contact with an infected person.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
Once a person is infected with the Ebola virus, it may take 2 to 21 days (an average of 8-10 days) for the symptoms to start showing. This is referred to as the incubation period. After this period, the following symptoms may be experienced:
- Muscle pain,
- General body weakness,
- Abdominal pain,
- Unexplained haemorrhage; bleeding or bruising, and
The person might also get:
- Sore throat,
- Eye redness,
- Chest pains, and
- Breathing difficulty.
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
Diagnosing of Ebola in the early stage may be difficult because the symptoms during the first few days resemble the symptoms of other common infectious diseases such as malaria or typhoid. During this time, the patients are usually isolated from the public to prevent transmission to people who do not have similar symptoms. The following tests can be done to determine whether the patients have Ebola:
- Antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test: This test is used to detect the presence of a certain antibody or antigen in the body.
- IgM ELISA test: This test is used to check the quantity of anti-meningococcal IgM and IgG serum antibodies present in the body.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): This technique is used to make copies of a particular DNA section in a laboratory.
- Virus isolation: This involves growing cells in a laboratory and applying various antibodies to them to diagnose different viruses.
When the disease has progressed, or after recovery, the following tests can be done:
- IgM and IgG antibodies: This is an immunoglobulin test that is used to measure the levels of certain immunoglobulins or antibodies in the blood.
Retrospectively in deceased patients, the following tests can be done:
- Immunohistochemistry testing (IHC) test: This involves the selective imaging of antigens in cells of a tissue section.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
There is no specific vaccine or medicine that has been approved for the prevention and treatment of Ebola. However, there are interventions that have been made to improve survival chances. These include:
- Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
- Providing intravenous fluids (IV) and balancing electrodes (body salts)
- Treating other infections that may occur.
There are several experiments of vaccines and treatments for Ebola that are being developed to help in treating this fatal disease. For now, doctors treat the specific symptoms and thereby improve survival rates as researchers continue to search for medicines for Ebola treatment.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
There may not be any approved vaccine for Ebola yet, but you can prevent yourself from getting the virus by doing the following:
- Reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission by avoiding contact with infected animals and consumption of raw meat.
- Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission by avoiding direct contact with people who have Ebola symptoms.
- Reducing the risk of possible sexual transmission by practising safe sex.
- Practising good hygiene.
- Protecting yourself when handling the body of a person who has died due to Ebola.
Healthcare workers and doctors should do the following:
- Report to the healthcare officials if they come into contact with Ebola-infected people.
- Protect themselves when dealing with Ebola patients by using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Isolate and observe those suspected to have the disease.