Ebola virus disease is an acute, often fatal disease characterized by the rapid onset of fatigue due to fever, stomach pain, headache, muscle aches and sore throat. Internal and external bleeding, impaired liver and kidney function, as well as skin rashes, diarrhea and vomiting usually follow within 2 to 21 days of infection. When the virus circulates through the bloodstream, it destroys vital organs and, more importantly, weakens the immune system, causing a drastic drop in blood clotting cell levels. The inability to coagulate in turn causes severe and uncontrollable bleeding. Ebola is not transmitted as easily as the common cold or flu, but it has been reported to have killed about 90% of people infected with it.
Fruit bats have been thought of as the first natural host of the Ebola virus, which was then introduced into humans in close contact with the blood, fluids and secretions of animals they had infected, such as monkeys, antelopes, gorillas and porcupines lying dead in the rainforest. The transmission from human to human is therefore through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people, as well as through contaminated surfaces such as towels, sheets and various articles of clothing. Many health professionals have been known to be infected this way, especially in hospitals where precautions are not strictly followed. In many countries where funeral ceremonies involve touching the dead, the Ebola virus has been known to be transmitted to mourners.
At this date, there are no known or proven treatments for Ebola Virus Disease (or EVD). Survival can be significantly improved, however, with the administration of supportive hydration, via the oral or IV. The mortality rates for the various cases of the Ebola virus have fluctuated between 25% and 90% among those infected, with an average global mortality rate of 50%. At present, no vaccine has been authorized for release to the public. However, there are two potential Ebola vaccines currently being evaluated by the Center for Disease Control.
According to the latest data provided by the World Health Organization, it was reported that 9,976 people died among the 24,282 cases observed in the recent epidemic (March 2014) in West Africa. The 2014 epidemic in West Africa is the largest and most complicated Ebola epidemic since the first discovery of the disease in 1976. In fact, it has exceeded the total number of all other outbreaks reported in previous years combined. To date, the Ebola virus disease has spread en masse to countries such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Other neighboring countries are at high risk, in addition to more isolated incidences reported in Nigeria, in the United States of America, in Mali and in Senegal.
Currently there is no FDA approved treatment or an antiviral drug for Ebola virus disease, although vaccines are currently under development. The research is ongoing in patients diagnosed with the disease, and the results have been promising, according to a report published in the July 2015 issue of the British medical journal peer reviewed The Lancet . A new potential vaccine has been called rVSV-ZEBOV, and it has been found to have been “highly effective and safe in preventing Ebola virus disease and is most likely effective at the population level when administered during an Ebola virus outbreak through a ring strategy vaccination.