Ebola is a frightening disease that has been shown to wipe out entire villages in remote regions of West Africa. Its victims are suddenly struck with illness, their health dramatically declining as they struggle to avoid death. Without immediate intervention, Ebola can very easily spread throughout the population, where an epidemic takes place. So how to you contract Ebola and how does it spread through the body?
What is Ebola?
Ebola is a virus with a sudden onset and can progress to extreme bleeding and organ failure if not treated properly. Left untreated, its victims have minimal chance of survival. Ebola is believed to come from certain host animals, such as fruit bats and monkeys, where humans have come in contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal. Forest animals are consumed regularly, in the diet of African tribes.
Once a human has contracted Ebola from infected animals, it can easily be spread through direct contact with others. If someone is infected with Ebola, they must be kept in isolation and treated immediately to prevent the spread to others. Ebola is named after the Ebola River which is located in Congo, where the disease was first discovered.
There are five known species of Ebola Virus:
5. Tai Forest
The rates of fatality and progression of the virus vary between species, with Zaire being the deadliest (patients have a 70-90% chance of fatality). It was the Zaire species that lead to the world’s largest outbreak between 2014 and 2016 in West Africa.
The incubation period of a virus refers to the time in which the host is first infected to the time when their symptoms first appear. With Ebola, that time can be as little as 3 days, but at much as 21 days.
The World Health Organization (WHO), state that a person is not infectious until the symptoms first show. At this stage, no test exists that allows medical experts to detect the virus, within the incubation period itself.
How is Ebola transmitted?
According to the WHO, it is believed that Ebola first spread from blood, fluid or organs from different infected wild animals such as fruit bats, monkeys and antelope.
While in the Western World, eating monkey meat is virtually unheard of, it is considered a delicacy among many African tribes – who continue to consume monkey, even though experts warn against the possibility of infection by Ebola.
This is due to the fact that many families live on less than $1 a day, making it hard to source alternative animal meats. Bush meats are selected as they provide good protein and can be sourced by anyone skilled in catching or trapping wild animals. In an article written on Face2Face Africa, it’s clear that keeping domestic animals is not an option, due to outbreaks of fly infestations.
Once humans come into contact with an infected animal, whether dead or alive, they can easily contract the virus. Ebola can only spread between humans by direct physical contact with one another or by contact through bodily fluids such as:
§ Kissing or being in contact with saliva
§ Potentially through sexual transmission (more in depth study required)
§ Urine or faeces
§ Contaminated surfaces such as bedding
§ Broken skin
As you can imagine, the danger is in the fact that early symptoms mimic a simple fever or perhaps even malaria. With loved ones helping out to take care of sick family members, they too can fall victim to this deadly virus.