Ebola, a virus which acquires its name from the Ebola River (located in Zaire, Africa), first emerged in September 1976, when it erupted simultaneously in 55 villages near the headwaters of the river. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and resulted in the deaths of nine out of every ten victims. Although it originated over 20 years ago, it still remains as a fear among African citizens, where the virus has reappeared occasionally in parts of the continent. In fact, and outbreak of the Ebola virus has been reported in Kampala, Uganda just recently, and is still a problem to this very day. Ebola causes severe viral hemorrhagic fevers in humans and monkeys, and has a 90 % fatality rate. Though there is no cure for the disease, researchers have found limited medical possibilities to help prevent one from catching this horrible virus.
The Ebola virus can be passed from one person into another by bodily contact. Airborne transmission of Ebola has not yet been confirmed, as there is no substantial evidence of this occurring. Researchers are still to this day observing the ways of transmission of this virus from one person to the next. In previous outbreaks, this infection has often occurred among hospital care workers or family members who were caring for an ill or dead person infected with the virus. Blood and body fluids contain large amounts of virus, thus transmission of the virus has also occurred as a result of hypodermic needles being reused in the treatment of patients. Underfinanced health care facilities in countries such as Zaire, Gabon, and Sudan find reusing needles a common practice. This contributes the vast amount of fatalities of this virus in these cities.
The general geographic region that has been most affected by the different strains of the Ebola virus is Central Africa, namely the cities of Zaire, Sudan, and Gabon. The first known occurrence of Ebola was found in a man by the name of Charles Monet, who had currently taken a trip among Mount Elgon, located along the border of Uganda and Kenya. How he broke down with this disease is unknown because he had already suffered and died as a result of the viral infections caused in his body before researchers identified the unknown virus. Because Ebola was unknown and never seen before, doctors and citizens in Ebola infected cities did not know what kind of precautions to take when handling an Ebola exposed person. As a direct effect to this, the virus spread tremendously fast through the city of Zaire, and eventually spread too many other countries due to the lack of knowledge of the infectious disease. Hospital workers dealing with Ebola exposed patients took few precautions when handling blood and test tubes. Family members held funerals to those who died from the virus, which spread the disease among the family members. It is believed that if the virus can find a host quickly, then it can still survive after its previous host dies.
Ebola is classified as a type of viral hemorrhagic fever, filivirus. The viruses are characterised by a long, filamentous morphology surrounded by a lipid viral envelope. The natural host for Ebola is still yet to be defined, but in most cases of a viral hemorrhagic fever, arthropods and rodents, such as ticks and mosquitoes, are the common hosts.
There are two main stages of symptoms in the duration of the Ebola virus in a body. The first stage begins within a few days of becoming infected with the virus. In this stage, a patient might develop high fevers, headaches, muscle aches, stomach pains, fatigue, diarrhea, sore throat, hiccups, rashes, red and itchy eyes, vomiting blood, and bloody diarrhea. The second stage of symptoms occurs within one week of being infected with the Ebola virus. Patients in this stage commonly experience chest pain, shock, blindness, bleeding, and eventually death. The victims “bleed out” through the nose, mouth, and eyes. Blood and other bodily fluids begin seeping out through the skin, producing painful blisters.
Ebola kills humans with swift efficiency and with a devastating range of effects. Ebola is distantly related to measles, mumps, and rabies. It is also closely related to certain pneumonia viruses. Like measles, Ebola triggers a rash all over the body. Some of its effects resemble rabies- psychosis, madness. Other effects it displays look eerily like a bad cold. As Ebola sweeps through you, your immune system fails, and you seem to lose your ability to respond to viral attack. You can’t fight off Ebola as you do the common cold. Ebola can do in just ten short days what it takes AIDS ten years to accomplish.
To understand part of the way Ebola works, you must first understand what a virus is, because Ebola is, in fact, a virus. A virus is a parasite, meaning it feeds off other things and can’t live alone. It can only make copies of itself inside a cell using the cell’s materials and machinery to get the job done. Viruses are ambiguously alive, neither dead nor alive. They carry on their existence in the borderlands between life and non-life. Viruses that are outside the cell simply sit there. They are considered dead. They can even form crystals. Virus particles that lie around in blood or mucus may appear to be dead, but they are not. The particles are just waiting for something to come along. They have a sticky surface. If a cell comes along and touches the virus and the stickiness of the virus matches the stickiness of the cell, then the virus simply clings to the cell. The cell feels the virus and drags it inside. Once the virus enters the cell, it becomes a “Trojan Horse”. It switches to on and begins to replicate. All living things carry viruses in their cells. Even fungi and bacteria and inhabited by viruses and are occasionally destroyed by them. A virus makes copies of itself in a cell until eventually the cell gets pigged with virus and pops and the viruses spill out of the broken cell. If enough cells are destroyed, such as they do in the case of Ebola, the host dies. A virus does not “want” to kill its host. That is not in the best interest of the virus, because then the virus may also die, unless it can jump fast enough out of the dying host into a new host.
There is no standard treatment for Ebola. Patients receive supportive therapy. This consists of balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating them for any complicating infections. So prevention is the best alternative to help the spread of this virus. The prevention of Ebola in Africa presents many challenges. Because the identity and location of the natural reservoir of Ebola virus are unknown, there are few established primary prevention measures.
If cases of the disease do appear, current social and economic conditions often favor the spread of an epidemic within health-care facilities. Therefore, health-care providers must be able to recognize a case of Ebola should one appear. They must also have the capability to perform diagnostic tests and be ready to employ practical viral hemorrhagic fever isolation precautions, or barrier nursing techniques.