Ebola virus disease

1976 photograph of two nurses standing in front of Mayinga N., a patient with Ebola virus disease; she died only a few days later due to severe internal hemorrhaging.

ICD-10. A98.4
ICD-9. 065.8
DiseasesDB. 18043
MedlinePlus. 001339
eMedicine. med/626
MeSH. D019142

Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is the human disease caused by the Ebola virus. Symptoms typically start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, throat and muscle pains, and headaches. There is then typically nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. At this point, some people begin to have problems with bleeding.[1]

The disease can be acquired when a person comes into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal such as a monkey or fruit bat. Fruit bats are believed to carry and spread the virus without being affected by it. Once infection of a human occurs, the disease may be spread from one person to another. Recently the virus has been shown to travel without contact from pigs to primates [2] making pigs a new possible host for the virus. While the method of transmission is not determined it is believed to travel short distance through the air in large droplets that are absorbed through the airways[3] effectively making it an airborne virus. Male survivors may be able to transmit the disease via their semen for nearly two months. To make the diagnosis, typically other diseases with similar symptoms such as malaria, cholera and other viral hemorrhagic fever are first excluded. The blood may then be tested for antibodies to the virus, or the viral RNA, or the virus itself, to confirm the diagnosis.[1]

Prevention includes decreasing the spread of the disease from infected monkeys and pigs to humans. This may be done by checking these types of 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 is wearing protective clothing and washing hands when around a person who has the disease. Samples of bodily fluids and tissues from people with the disease should be handled with special caution.[1]

There is no specific treatment for the virus. Efforts to help persons who are infected include giving them either oral rehydration therapy or intravenous fluids.[1] The disease has a high mortality rate: often between 50% and 90% of those who are infected with the virus.[1][4] The disease was first identified in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It typically occurs in outbreaks in tropical regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.[1] Between 1976, when it was first identified, through 2013, fewer than 1,000 people a year have been infected.[1][5] The largest outbreak to date is the ongoing 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, which is affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Efforts are ongoing to develop a vaccine; however, none exists as of 2014.[1]

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