The Deadly Ebola Virus
The Ebola virus is a hemorrhagic virus. It was first reported in the Ebola River Valley in the Republic of Congo, which was formerly Zaire. This virus destroys the interior of the blood vessels and is transmitted by bodily fluids.
There are five different strains of Ebola virus; the Zaire, Sudan, Reston, Cote d'lvoire and Bundibugyo. The Zaire strain was the first and is the most lethal of all the Ebola strains, its mortality rate is around 90%. The Sudan strain has a mortality rate of only about 55% and the Bundibugyo only 34%. The Cote d'lvoire strain only causes severe fevers, while the Reston is very lethal to monkeys and pigs but cannot infect humans.
The incubation period takes two days to three weeks. The symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, headache, bloody vomit, bleeding from orifices, rash, malaise, muscle and joint pain. Chest pain, sore throat, diarrhea, hemorrhagic diathesis and many other symptoms can also occur when the Ebola Virus infects someone. The symptoms can be different for each person. However, symptoms that are more violent occur with the Zaire strain.
The early stages of Ebola are not extremely contagious. People can interact with an infected person and not catch the virus. However, when the virus grows strong in its host and starts to damage the blood cells of the victim, it then becomes very contagious and dangerous. While there are vaccines, they can only protect non-human primates and they only work 33% of the time. Some people are able to fight off the virus naturally but most have to go to the hospital. Doctors will replace the victim’s blood, give them oxygen and antibiotics to help fight other infections that can occur.
Ebola is Zoononic, like the Rabies virus. However, how it is transmitted is different. The virus usually first occurs in bats. They drop half-eaten fruit on the ground that apes and chimpanzees pick up and eat. The primates catch the virus from the saliva left on the food from the bats. They die from the virus and unsuspecting people mistakenly touch the dead body and thus catches the virus themselves. The human then becomes both a host and carrier of it. Once the virus grows in strength, they pass it on to everyone they come in contact with. Hospital, funerals and family homes are the most common places to become infected with Ebola.
This virus is a Bio-safety Level 4 agent and a Category A Bioterrorism agent. In 1992, the members of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo Cult considered using Ebola as a terror weapon. This is the same group who used Sarin Gas in the Tokyo Subway, killing 12 people and injuring 54. However, the Ebola virus does not make a good bio-weapon as it kills its victims too quickly which limits its spreading capabilities. The use of an Ebola chimera virus for terrorism is a real fear. A chimera virus is when two viruses are combined together to create one that is tougher and more deadly.
Thankfully, the Ebola virus is rare, as just the mention of it bring terror to people’s hearts. While not as dangerous, as what Hollywood portrays it to be, it is still a potent and life threatening virus. Scientist’s today are hard at work trying to develop a vaccine for it but at the moment, they have had no success. Those few who are unfortunate enough to contract this deadly virus have only hope, will and sheer determination to fight it with.