Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a disease caused by an RNA virus. It is a very aggressive virus usually resulting in death. The symptoms are sudden, including headache, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue and fever. In more than half of the cases, bleeding from mucous membranes and needle puncture sites occurs. There is no known treatment for the disease and thus, it is a disease of particular global concern (CDC, 2010).
Human cases of Ebola have been reported in several African countries including Sudan, Congo, Gabon, Uganda, and the Ivory Coast. The disease is spread readily through blood or mucous from an infected person. Typically, the disease will present in numerous family members who have cared for an infected person. The poor health care practices in Africa, where the disease originates, does not help the situation. Needles are reused in hospitals and protective gear for healthcare workers are seldom used (i.e., masks, gloves, etc.) (CDC, 2010).
The incubation period varies but it occurs between two and twelve days. Onset often can be misdiagnosed as a myriad of other illnesses, with fever, headache, and nausea being most common. This exacerbates the problem because diagnosis does not usually occur within a reasonable timeframe to protect the healthcare workers from spreading the disease. Family members also misread the signs and spread it amongst other family members. Education is also a problem. The general public does not understand the symptoms or risk of the disease (CDC, 2010).
There are five subtypes of the virus, all of which have infected primates, but only four have infected humans. Four of the five subtypes are traced to African origins, with the fifth subtype (Reston) being traced to primates imported to biological lab in Reston, Virginia (CDC, 2010). The vector of the virus is still uncertain, but recent studies indicate that the vector of the virus may be fruit bat (Leroy, et al., 2005). In this study, over a thousand small vertebrates were tested in Central Africa for the virus and three species of fruit bat were found to be carrying the virus, although asymptomatic (Leroy, et al. 2005).
There is no effective treatment for Ebola. Anti-viral agents are not effective. If a patient’s immune system is compromised by another disease, it makes them far more susceptible to death due to the disease. Recent thought is to develop a vaccine to combat the risk for infection. The new ideology stresses research into a vaccine for the disease since current treatment methods are not effective. Recent trials have shown that a vaccine might be effective against infection. In these studies, non-human primates (macaques) were vaccinated and were resistant to the disease for at least six months (Sullivan, et al., 2000).
Ebola is a worldwide concern. Even though the virus does not mutate as quickly as the influenza virus, it is still of exceptional concern because of it virility and morbidity. There is no known effective treatment for the disease. Because of global mobility, the movement of the virus could result in a serious global health threat. Identification of the vector of the virus is important. However, if a vaccine can be developed to protect against its transmission, that would be paramount.
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