The Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a highly contagious disease caused by species of Ebolavirus, a BSL-4 filovirus. Transmission to humans occurs through direct contact with body fluids (e.g., blood, saliva, sweat, urine, feces, or vomit), and indirect contact by contaminated fomites. Infected patients can easily transmit Ebola virus to others if appropriate containment and use of personal protective equipment is not available or used. Handling and working with patients with EVD is extremely hazardous to the general population and health-care workers. In almost every EVD outbreak there have been Ebola infections among health-care workers. This ease of Ebola virus transmission was recently demonstrated in the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in 2014, in which more than 28,000 people in 10 countries were infected and more than 11,000 died.
After infection, the initial symptoms of Ebola are unremarkable: fever, severe headache, myalgia, cough, chest pain, and pharyngitis. As the disease progresses, patients experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Hemorrhaging begins after about 3 days, with bleeding occurring in the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and many other sites. This often leads to delirium, stupor, and coma, accompanied by shock, multiple organ failure, and death. The mortality rates of EVD often range from 50% to 90%.
The initial diagnosis of Ebola is difficult because the early symptoms are so similar to those of many other illnesses. It is possible to directly detect the virus from patient samples within a few days after symptoms begin, using antigen-capture ELISA, immunoglobulin M (IgM) ELISA, PCR, and virus isolation. There are currently no effective, approved treatments for Ebola other than supportive care and proper isolation techniques to contain its spread.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology