In the summer of 1976, two central African towns, in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were struck by an epidemic outbreak that killed the majority of its victims. Many suspected the Marburg virus to be the culprit. However, they realised that it was an entirely new pathogen after studying it under a microscope; it was then named after the nearby Ebola River.
Like yellow fever or dengue, the disease caused by the Ebola virus is a severe type of hemorrhagic fever. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. It begins by attacking the immune system’s cells and neutralising its responses, allowing the virus to proliferate. Once the cell that the virus is using to replicate itself is saturated, it dissolves the cell membrane to release the virus into the tissue.
The first symptoms, such as a fever and a sore throat, appear anywhere between 2 and 22 days after the contraction. Then, they quickly escalated to vomiting, rashes, and diarrhoea. As the virus spreads, it invades the lymph nodes and vitalorgans such as the kidney and liver, causing them to lose function. However, the deaths are not mainly caused by these symptoms. The mounting cell deaths caused by the virus trigger an immune system overload, known as a cytokine storm. The explosion of immune responses damages blood vessels, causing both internal and external bleeding.
The excessive fluid loss and resulting complications can be fatal within six to sixteen days of the first symptoms. The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to90% in past outbreaks.
Factors that limit its contagiousness
Unless viruses proliferate through small, airborne particles, Ebola only exists in bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, mucus, vomit or faeces. These must be transmitted from an infected person into another body through passage ways such as the eyes, mouth, or nose to spread. Since the disease’s severity increases directly along with the viral load, even an infected person is unlikely to be contagious until they begin to show symptoms. Although Ebola hasbeen shown to survive on surfaces for several hours and transmission through sneezing or coughing is theoretically possible, all known cases of contraction have been through direct contact.
Supportive care and cure
Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. Twomonoclonal antibodies (Inmazeb and Ebanga) were approved for the treatment of Zaireebolavirus (Ebolavirus) infection in adults and children by the US Food and Drug Administration in late 2020.
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