Ebola is a disease of humans and other primates caused by ebolaviruses. Signs and symptoms typically start within 21 days after contracting the virus; early symptoms include: a fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches; later symptoms that show up include: vomiting, diarrhea and rash. The later symptoms come about because of malfunction of the liver and kidneys and some victims begin to bleed internally. Death, due to low blood pressure and fluid loss can occur as early as one week after symptoms appear. The virus is acquired by contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person, animal or direct contact with a recently contaminated item.
Spread through the air has not been documented in the natural environment. Fruit bats are believed to be the normal carrier of ebolaviruses in nature. Humans and other animals can become infected by contact with living or dead bats or dead animal that has been infected by bats. Once a human is infected, the virus can be spread between people. Male survivors may be able to transmit the disease via semen for two months. Blood samples are tested for viral antibodies, viral RNA, or the virus itself to confirm the diagnosis.
Prevention includes handling potentially infected items while wearing protective clothing and washing hands when around a person with the disease. Medical personnel who handle samples of body fluids and tissues from people with the disease should take special caution.
No specific treatment for the disease has been presented to the health community. The disease has a high risk of death with the virus killing, on average, 50% of those infected. The World Health Organization first discussed Ebola as a disease in 1976. The largest outbreak to date is the current 2014 outbreak affecting the countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia in Africa. As of October 22nd 2014, 9,964 cases with 4,881 deaths have been reported.
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