Ebola causes viral hemorrhagic fever and kills up to 90% of people who catch it
It's named after the Ebola River in DRC, where one of first outbreaks occurred in 1976
Symptoms can take between two and 21 days to appear after victim contracts virus
Humans contract Ebola through contact with bodily fluids of infected animals or humans
Here are nine things to know about what the World Health Organization calls “one of the world’s most virulent diseases.”
Why does Ebola generate such fear?
“It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90% of the people who catch it, causing terror among infected communities,” it says.
There is also no vaccination against it.
Of Ebola’s five subtypes, the Zaire strain – the first to be identified – is considered the most deadly.
What is Ebola?
The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.
The virus is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), where one of the first outbreaks occurred in 1976. The same year there was another outbreak in Sudan.
The WHO says there are five different strains of the virus – named after the areas they originated in. Three of these have been associated with large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever in Africa.
These are the Bundibugyo – an area of Uganda where the virus was discovered in 2007 – Sudan and Zaire sub-types.
There has been a solitary case of Ivory Coast Ebola. This subtype was discovered when a researcher studying wild chimpanzees became ill in 1994 after an autopsy on one of the animals. The researcher recovered.
Finally, Reston Ebola is named after Reston in the U.S. state of Virginia, where this fifth strain of the Ebola virus was identified in monkeys imported from the Philippines. The CDC says while humans have been infected with Ebola Reston, there have been no cases of human illness or death from this sub-type.
What are Ebola’s symptoms?
Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat. These symptoms can appear two to 21 days after infection.
The WHO says these nonspecific early symptoms can be mistaken for signs of diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, meningitis or even the plague.
MSF says some patients may also develop a rash, red eyes, hiccups, chest pains and difficulty breathing and swallowing.
The early symptoms progress to vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
Ebola can only be definitively confirmed by five different laboratory tests.
How is it treated?
There are no specific treatments for Ebola. MSF says patients are isolated and then supported by health care workers.
“This consists of hydrating the patient, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure and treating them for any complicating infections,” it says.