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Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF -- alternatively Ebola hemorrhagic
fever; commonly referred to as simply Ebola) is a recently identified,
severe, often fatal infectious disease occurring in humans and some
primates caused by the Ebola virus.
The Ebola virus
The virus comes from the filoviridae family, similar to the Marburg virus.
It is named after the Ebola River in Zaire, Africa, near where the first
outbreak was noted by Dr. Ngoy Mushola in 1976 after a significant outbreak
in Yambuku, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Nzara, in
western Sudan. Of 602 identified cases, there were 397 deaths.
The two strains identified in 1976 were named Ebola-Zaire (EBO-Z) and
Ebola-Sudan (EBO-S). The outbreak in Sudan showed a lower fatality rate --
50% -- compared to the 90% mortality rate of the Zaire strain. In 1990, a
second, similar virus was identified in Reston, Virginia amongst monkeys
imported from the Philippines, and was named Ebola-Reston.
Further outbreaks have occurred in Zaire/Congo (1995 and 2003), Gabon (1994,
1995 and 1996), and in Uganda (2000). A new subtype was identified from a
single human case in the C™te d'Ivoire in 1994, EBO-CI.
Of around 1500 identified Ebola cases, two-thirds of the patients have died.
The animal (or other) reservoir which sustains the virus between outbreaks
has not been identified.
Ebola haemorrhagic fever
Among humans, the virus is transmitted by direct contact with infected body
fluids such as blood. The cause of the index case is unknown.
The incubation period of Ebola haemorrhagic fever varies from two days to
three weeks. Symptoms are variable too, but the onset is usually sudden and
characterised by high fever, prostration, myalgia, arthralgia, abdominal
pains and headache. These symptoms progress to vomiting, diarrhea,
oropharyngeal lesions, conjunctivitis, organ damage (notably the kidney and
liver) by co-localized necrosis, proteinuria, and bleeding both internal and
external, commonly through the gastrointestinal tract. Death or recovery to
convalescence occurs within six to ten days.
No specific treatment has been proven effective, and no vaccine currently
exists. A vaccine is in the developmental stages. Ebola is know to exist in
humans and a few monkey species can be infected. To develop the vaccine
monkeys are used, but it can not be tested on humans except in outbreak
environments so the vaccine must be tested extensively and meet strict
government regulations. Also, in the development of a vaccine, accessibility
and cost for people of poor nations and the transportation efficiency of it
must be considered.