Five Facts on the Ebola Virus

In August 2014, the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced a case of Ebola. Since then, the outbreak has spread in West Africa, especially in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with concerns that it may affect other parts of the world. To help inform the public of this deadly disease, Learning Life offers the following five facts.


1) Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1976

The places and year the Ebola Virus were first discovered in a simultaneous outbreak, with the virus taking its name from the Ebola River in the Congo. Ebola has five identified virus species, with four being fatal to humans and the fifth (the Reston virus) only affecting non-human primates.  Although the origin of the Ebola virus remains unknown, researchers believe it is animal-borne and that bats are the most likely culprit for its genesis. Since the discovery of the first Ebola virus in 1976, there have been sporadic outbreaks mostly contained to Africa.  This current outbreak is the largest in recorded human history.



2) Fever, headache, muscle pain, unexplained bleeding, vomiting, stomach ache, and diarrhea

The common symptoms of Ebola. The average rate of appearance of these symptoms is between eight to ten days, but can occur anywhere between two and 21 days. An infected person will first develop a fever greater than 101.5 degrees fahrenheit, headache, sore throat, and muscle pains. Vomiting, bleeding, and diarrhea follow. While there are no vaccines available as a cure yet, treatments such as intravenous fluids and maintaining oxygen and blood pressure can help the recovery process. Once a person is recovered from Ebola, they develop antibodies that can last ten years or more, although it is not currently known if these antibodies protect from all species of Ebola or only the one recovered from.



3) Malaria and Typhoid Fever

These ailments share many of the same symptoms as Ebola, making Ebola diagnosis more difficult.  However, if Ebola is suspected, there is an array of tests that can be given to a patient to confirm Ebola infection.  These tests include antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing, antigen-capture detection tests, electron microscopy, virus isolation via cell culture, and others.



4) Direct bodily contact

The only way Ebola is spread.  Ebola does not spread via air, water, or food.  However, Ebola can spread on the surfaces of objects such as bedsheets and clothing, which is why it is important to take extreme precaution when around someone who is sick or any of other belongings.  It is also possible to spread the virus once recovered from its effects, especially in men. The Ebola virus can, for instance, stay active in semen for up to three months after recovery.



5) Good hygiene and avoidance

These are two of the ways to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading. Washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer and avoiding contact with any bodily fluids from another person will drastically reduce the chances of transmission of Ebola (and other viruses). Avoiding bodily fluids may include not directly handling any items that have come into contact with a sick person (e.g., counters, door handles, car steering wheels).  It is also advisable to avoid contact with bats or non-human primates, including food prepared using them.



For much more information, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s website devoted to Ebola: