What is Ebola?
A disease in humans and primates, caused by a filovirus belonging to the genus Ebolavirus.
What is the incubation period and the first symptoms of the disease?
The incubation period (i.e. the amount of time that elapses from the time an individual becomes infected to the time when the actual symptoms begin to show) varies from 2 to 21 days.
Generally speaking, the disease shows itself within 7 days of infection.
Ebola can be difficult to diagnose at first, cause its initial symptoms can mimic other illnesses. A high fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting are usually the first signs of Ebola. If the disease progresses, vomiting, internal bleeding, organ failure, coma, and death may occur.
Only a specific blood test can positively identify the virus.
How is Ebola transmitted from human to human?
The only means of contagion is by coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person; saliva, sweat, vomit, semen, or other fluids.
Unlike the common cold, for instance, or the flu virus, Ebola is not airborne, You cannot become infected by simply being in the same room, or sitting next to, an Ebola patient. Direct contact must occur.
Is there a cure for the disease?
The strain in the current outbreak has a mortality rate of 50-60%. This means that approximately one person out of every two who becomes infected will die. Mortality decreases with the overall health status of the patient, age, and standard of care.
There is no known vaccine currently in existence to treat Ebola, though an experimental treatment was tested with some success in a small cohort of patients. Any adverse events or possible side effects of this treatment are not known at this time, nor is this treatment widely available at this particular point in time.
How and where did the Ebola 2014 outbreak begin?
It is believed that a 2 year old boy from Guinea was the index case of the current outbreak. It is unknown how he became infected in the first place, but soon after his death in December 2014, his mother, sister, and grandmother also perished. People who were infected by these patients spread the disease to nearby villages, and the virus then kept spreading exponentially. The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that the rate of infection is now faster than at the outset.
What countries are affected by the current outbreak?
Five West African nations, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and Senegal. Three cases have been confirmed in Spain, two of whom died. A nurse who tended to one of the deceased has now also become infected.
In the United States, a man named Thomas Eric Duncan is currently in critical condition in an isolation unit in Dallas, Texas. And also, an NBC cameraman who contracted the disease while doing field work was flown to the United States for treatment.
Could Ebola become airborne?
Ebola is an RNA virus. Every time it copies itself, one or two mutations may occur, mostly harmless. However, the longer the virus interacts with human organisms, it increases the chances that a crucial mutation may take place, potentially rendering it airborne. This is a very worrying scenario indeed, and one of the capital reasons why the outbreak must be contained in the shortest possible timeframe.