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What Are the Symptoms of Ebola?

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  • Written By: Geisha A. Legazpi
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2014
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Ebolavirus, or Ebola, is a virus that causes a viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF). The Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is a highly lethal blood disorder that caused a mortality rate of 89% in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, from December 2002 to April 2003. Prompt recognition of the symptoms of Ebola is essential in order to immediately initiate quarantine and supportive therapy. The most common symptoms of Ebola include severe headache, fever with or without chills, muscle or joint pains, lack of appetite, and asthenia or generalized feeling of weakness.

Together with the Marburg virus, Ebola is a virus that belongs to the family Filoviridae. When a human or a primate is infected, the Ebola virus rapidly replicates in all tissues, leading to necrosis of cells. The most damaging necrosis occurs in the liver. When the host’s immune system becomes overwhelmed by the infection a fatal course occurs, and the host’s blood and tissues contain large loads of the virus. In particular, body fluids and the skin have large numbers of the virions, thereby serving as highly infectious channels of transmission even when the host is already dead.

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There are five known species of the Ebola virus. These include Ebola virus Zaire (EBO-Z) or Zaire Ebola virus (ZEV), Ebola virus Sudan (EBO-S) or Sudan Ebola virus (SEV), Ebola virus Côte d’Ivoire (EBO-C) or Côte d’Ivoire Ebola virus (CIEV), Ebola virus Bundibugyo (EBO-B) or Bundibugyo Ebola virus (BEV), and Ebola virus Reston (EBO-R) or Reston Ebola virus (REV). They all cause human infection, but only the first four cause EHF. The main indicator of Ebola infection is a history of travel or work in places where Ebola is endemic, including Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, and Gabon. A history of travel to the tropical African forests or exposure to an Ebola outbreak also increases the risk for EHF.

The symptoms of Ebola hemorrhagic fever depend on the disease stage. Initially, an infected person experiences fever, inflammation of the pharynx or pharyngitis, joint pains, and muscle pains. Around the fifth day of infection, a maculopapular rash appears, usually more prominent on the trunk. Many patients also complain of bilateral conjunctivitis or sore eyes. Gastrointestinal complaints, including nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea also occur in association with bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.

Among those who are fatally infected, one important sign is obtundation, which is decreased mental alertness and diminished response to pain. At this late stage, spontaneous bleeding from mucous membranes is common. A lack of urine, increased respiratory rate, low blood pressure, and shock follow. Myocarditis and pulmonary edema are also observed. Patients often die while in coma.

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anon974321
Post 3

I am so scared that Ebola is going to spread around the world and kill us all.

Rotergirl
Post 2

@Pippinwhite -- Thanks for clearing that up. It's information that needs to be disseminated since there is so much ignorance about the way this disease spreads. It's really sad to see people raving about Ebola when they obviously know so little about the disease and how it is contracted.

I wish people would educate themselves before they start spreading rumors and inciting panic. That would be a public service.

Pippinwhite
Post 1

It's important to understand that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, that Ebola is not transmitted through the air like the flu. One has to come in contact with the blood, tissue or bodily fluids of an infected person, or use a needle contaminated with the blood of an infected person.

In that sense, it's spread rather like HIV -- that is, through blood, body fluids or dirty needles. HIV is not airborne and neither is Ebola. Obviously, not using correct hygiene and isolation procedures will help spread the disease, which is why you see people in hazmat suits who are treating patients who have the disease. It's not to keep from breathing the air -- it's to create a barrier against the blood and body fluids.

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