What Causes Ebola Fever?

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Ebola virus disease (EVD), commonly known as Ebola fever, is caused by the Ebola virus. The virus belongs to the Filoviridae family and is classified into five different species: Zaire ebolavirus, Sudan ebolavirus, Tai Forest ebolavirus, Bundibugyo ebolavirus, and Reston ebolavirus. Among these, the Zaire ebolavirus species is the most virulent and has caused the most severe outbreaks.

The Ebola virus is primarily transmitted to humans from wild animals and is then spread from person to person through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people, as well as surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids. The virus is not transmitted through the air, and casual contact with an infected person is not sufficient for transmission.

Key factors in the transmission of the Ebola virus include:

  1. Wild Animal Reservoirs: Fruit bats are considered natural hosts of the Ebola virus. The virus can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food), particularly in regions where the virus is endemic.
  2. Human-to-Human Transmission:
    • Direct Contact: Ebola can spread through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected individuals.
    • Broken Skin or Mucous Membranes: The virus can also be transmitted through contact with broken skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) with contaminated materials.
    • Body Fluids: Contaminated surfaces, objects, and medical equipment can harbor the virus and facilitate transmission.
  3. Nosocomial Transmission:
    • Healthcare settings can be a source of transmission if proper infection prevention and control measures are not implemented.
  4. Funeral Practices:
    • Traditional burial practices, which involve close contact with the deceased person’s body, can contribute to the spread of the virus.

Ebola virus infection can lead to a severe and often fatal illness characterized by symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and impaired kidney and liver function. As the disease progresses, it can cause more severe symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding.

Early detection, isolation of infected individuals, and implementation of proper infection control measures are crucial in containing the spread of Ebola virus disease during outbreaks. There is no specific antiviral treatment for EVD, and supportive care is the primary approach. Researchers continue to explore and develop potential vaccines and treatments for Ebola.

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