Written by: Theophilus Izobofolo

Ebola virus belongs to the family of viruses called Filoviridae. There are five species of the virus, some being more lethal than others. Its incubation period varies from 2 to 21 days with an observed average of 8 to 10 days and its principal mode of transmission are through human to animal, person to person by direct contact body fluid/ secretion of infected person and sexual intercourse.

Ebola virus first appeared in 1976 in Sudan, Nzara and in Tambuku, Democratic republic of Congo (DRC). This virus EVD was located in a village near the Ebola River and this brought about the name Ebola. EVD is a severe disease where patients suffer from fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headache followed by nausea, vomiting and many more. Since its appearance in 1976, EVD has persisted in African with over 20 outbreaks being recorded. These outbreaks where in 70s, 90s and 2000-2012 which affected remote villages near tropical rainforests in several countries including the DRC, Congo, Uganda, Gabon and Cote d Ivoire. In total, the outbreaks from 1976-2012 affected 2,387 people and caused 1,490 deaths while from 2013-2015 at least 26,194 suspected cases and 10,857 confirmed deaths.

Currently, Ebola outbreak started in Guinea and first case occurred in December 2013 which was a result of Zaire species of Ebola virus and this virus has migrated to other various countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria etc.The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. There were a small number of cases reported in Nigeria and Mali and a single case reported in Senegal; however, these cases were contained, with no further spread in these countries.As from 14th August,2014 up to date, 1, 975 suspected persons are affected while 1, 069 persons are suspected dead from the virus.

How is Ebola spread?

Ebola virus is not an airborne virus. The Ebola virus was initially spread to humans through contact with animals such as monkeys, chimpanzees and bats. In some cases, the Ebola virus can be spread from person to person by body fluids(human-to-human transmissions through direct contact).  Direct contact means that blood secretions, organs or other body fluids containing the virus must come into contact with broken skin or the mucous membranes of a healthy individual in order for the virus to be transmitted.  The fluids may come directly from the infected patient or from surfaces touched by the sick individual, such as bedding or clothing. The virus is mostly transmitted through blood, feaces, breast milk, urine, and semen. It is also believed that it may be even transmitted through tears and saliva. Ebola is not spread through the air. This means that a person cannot contract the virus from breathing the same air as an infected individual. However, if an infected person directly sneezes on an individual and the mucus from that sneeze comes into contact with an open cut or the eyes, nose or mouth of someone else, there is a chance of infection.

Symptoms noted in Ebola patients include:

(a) a fever greater than 38.6 degrees Celsius; (b) muscle pain; (c) severe headache; (d) weakness; (e) diarrhea; (f) vomiting; (g) abdominal pain; (h) blood in stool; (i) rashes; (j) bleeding from nose, eye and/or mouth; (k) chills; (l) sore throat; (m) lack of appetite; (n) weight loss; (o) chest pain; (p) red eyes and ; (q)internal bleeding

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.

Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

Because the symptoms of Ebola are so much like those of other diseases, medical professionals use series of test to diagnose EVD (Ebola Virus Disease). The common tests include the following:

Virus isolation by cell culture
Antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
Serum neutralization test
Antigen-capture detection tests
Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay
Liver function test
Blood coagulation test
Treatment for Ebola Virus

There is no cure for Ebola, nor are there any vaccines that can prevent the disease. Those who recover from the disease do so through the strength of their own immune system. Doctors have found that one of the most important treatments for patients afflicted with the virus is simply helping them breathe, to give their immune system a better chance to fight off the disease. The use of supportive care, along with intravenous fluids or oral dehydration with solutions containing electrolytes is important. Maintaining blood pressure and replacing lost blood also are part of the supportive care. Doctors are trying several experimental treatments on patients. Some doctors are giving patients blood transfusions from those who have survived Ebola. The hope is that the survivor’s antibodies will help the receipt’s antibodies which will help the recipient’s immune system fight off the virus. Z-mapp and Brincidofovir are two experimental treatments for Ebola.

Patients who recover from Ebola can develop antibodies that will protect them from the virus for at least 10 years, or possibly even longer. There is one exception, though. A recovered patient can still spread the virus with semen for up to three months after they recover. Doctors advise anyone who is recovering from Ebola to use condoms or to refrain from intercourse for three months.

Prevention of the Ebola Virus

Current policy for prevention of Ebola disease focuses on avoiding contact with the virus. The precautions that can help prevent Ebola infection are listed below:

Avoid traveling to areas of known Ebola outbreaks.
Maintain basic hygiene.
Drink clean water from a clean source.
Cook meat thoroughly and properly. Never eat undercooked meat.
Avoid having bush meat as food.
Avoid contact with wild animals.
Avoid contact with Ebola infected people.
Health workers should wear protective clothing like gloves, masks, gowns and eye shields.
Always keep infected people away from others.
Dispose of the used needles properly and sterilize other instruments.
Do not try to prepare for last rites of the people who died due to Ebola. Let the specially organized and trained teams to handle burials and other procedure regarding death rituals.
If you notice any symptoms that resemble those of Ebola, seek medical care.
While Ebola is extremely infectious, it is not extremely contagious. Laboratory experiments show that even a single virus can lead to a fatal infection.