Ebola virus disease: Know all about the fatal illness

Salome Phelamei

What is Ebola hemorrhagic fever?

Ebola virus disease (EVD)or Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a severe and often deadly illness in humans, caused by the Ebola virus. The disease has high mortality rate, killing upto 90% of people who are infected.

The ongoing 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak is considered to be the largest and longest outbreak ever recorded of Ebola, killing at least 932 people and infecting more than 1,700 till date since March in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia.

Hence, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 8 August, 2014 declared the killer Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa an international health emergency.


EVD is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. While there are five identified sub-species of Ebolavirus, four viruses cause disease in humans. They are Bundibugyo virus (BDBV), Ebola virus (EBOV), Sudan virus (SUDV), Taï Forest virus (TAFV).

The fifth virus, Reston virus (RESTV), is not considered to be disease-causing in humans.

According to WHO, EVD first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River from which the disease takes its name.

How does it spread?

It is still unclear how Ebola spreads. However, it is believed that the first pateint becomes infected through contact with an infected animal's body fluids.

Human-to-human transmission can occur through direct contact with blood, organs or other body fluids of infected people or exposure to objects such as needles and syringes that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

Ebola can also be transmitted from men who have recovered from the disease through semen as it is infectious for up to 7 weeks.

Infected dead bodies can spread Ebola as they are still infectious. So mourners who have direct contact with the body of deceased person can also get the disease.

Who is most at risk?

Health-care workers who do not wear appropriate protective clothing and family members who are in close contact with infected people or deceased patients.

Signs and symptoms:

Symptoms may occur between 2 and 21 days after contracting the infection. Common signs of Ebola include:



Muscle, abdominal and joint pain

Sore throat



Vomit or cough up blood

Chest pain

Difficulty in breathing and swallowing



Bleeding inside and outside the body


Currently there is no vaccine available for humans. But the infection can be controlled through the use of recommended protective measures such as:

Avoid contacting infected blood or secretions, including from those who are dead .

Using standard precautions for all patients in the healthcare setting.

Sterilizing equipment, and wearing protective clothing including masks, gloves, gowns and goggles.

Washing your hands with soaps or detergents.

Disinfecting your surroundings.

Isolate people who have Ebola symptoms.

Culling of infected animals, with close supervision of burial or incineration of carcasses.

Yet, not travelling to the areas or countries where the virus is found is the best way to avoid Ebola.

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