Symptoms of Ebola
While symptoms may take up to 21 days to appear from the time of infection, Ebola begins as any other virus with early symptoms being:
§ Muscle pain and aching joints
§ Severe weakness
§ A high fever
§ Lack of appetite
§ Sore throat
Ebola can quickly spread throughout the body as the immune system is rapidly damaged. As the virus enters the later stages, symptoms become severe:
§ Large volumes of watery diarrhea (up to 5L or more per day have been reported)
§ Uncontrollable bleeding
§ Coughing blood
§ Abdominal pain
§ Confusion and delirium
§ Red rashes
§ Blood in stools
§ Multiple organ failure
Background of Ebola cases
First reported case
The very first reported case of Ebola occurred in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (back then known as Zaire). The outbreak started after contaminated needles were used at a local hospital in Northern Zaire.
It resulted in 280 deaths of all 318 of those infected with the disease. In that same year, another outbreak occurred in South Sudan, again at a local hospital through personal contact, resulting in a further 151 deaths out of 284 infected.
Largest outbreak in history
Undoubtedly the largest and most catastrophic outbreak of Ebola occurred between March 2014 to 2016. During this time period, 11,310 lost their lives across multiple countries, however the hardest hit country was West Africa. It is officially the most widely spread, deadly disease on record.
This outbreak started out as a mysterious disease, thought to have started in Meliandou, Guinea where an 18-month old boy developed a serious illness, dying two days later. He was thought to have come in contact with wild bats, while playing in his backyard.
The illness spread throughout his immediate family, which resulted in many more rapid deaths. It was not until months later, and after a widespread outbreak had occurred, that Ebola was identified as the cause of multiple deaths. Unfortunately, access to diagnostic tools, along with medical services were severely limited during the outbreak.
Since the first reported case in 1976, many deaths have resulted in various regions predominantly across West Africa, although most of these cases have been contained. Some isolated cases have shown up in regions such as Philippines, Russia and Italy, with most victims surviving due to advanced medical assistance.
During this outbreak, 400 medical workers contracted the virus, which killed 232 of those workers.
Locals lack of education on how the virus spreads
In a captivating and very gripping article written in the Washington Post, it’s frightening to realize just how little education existed in regions of West Africa, during the largest outbreak:
“Local customs in handling the dead led to further infections. Some West Africans believe that the day you die is one of the most important days of your life. The final farewell can be a hands-on, affectionate ritual in which the body is washed and dressed, and in some villages carried through the community, where friends and relatives will share a favorite beverage by putting the cup to the lips of the deceased before taking a drink”.