What is Ebola Virus?

As we know that World Health Organisation has declared a public health emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which is of international concern. Do you know what is Ebola Virus, its history, symptoms and treatment?
Jul 18, 2019 18:08 IST
What is Ebola Virus?

In Congo the Ebola outbreak has killed more than 1,600 people. In the early 2018, Ebola outbreak was first reported in Congo. It mostly spread in two north eastern provinces of Congo. It threatened to spread in one of the most populated cities of Congo that is Goma and also into the neighbouring nations. This week the first case of Ebola Virus was confirmed in Goma and last week the virus was reported to have brought into the Uganda after attending a burial of an infected relative in Congo. Goma has an international airport and shares a border with Rwanda.

Do you know that this is the fifth time in the history that WHO has declared a public health emergency?

Previous declarations of emergency were:

- In 2014-2016 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in which more than 11000 people were killed.

- In Latin America spread of Zika Virus.

- In 2009 Swine Flu epidemic.

- In 2014 for Polio.

What is Ebola Virus?

Ebola is a rare but deadly virus that causes fever, body ache, diarrhoea etc. When it enters the body, it kills cells and also makes some of them to explode. It affects the immune system, causes heavy bleeding inside and outside the body and damages almost every organ. Ebola Virus disease (EVD) mostly affects people and nonhuman primates like monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees. It is caused by an infection with a group of viruses within the genus Ebola virus. Let us tell you that Ebola Virus disease is also known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever. No doubt it often causes fatal illness in humans.

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What is the origin of Ebola Virus?

In 1976, first time the Ebola Virus disease appeared in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, South Sudan and the other in Yambuku, DRC. The latter it occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from where the disease got its name. Do you know that the 2014-16 Ebola outbreaks was the largest outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976? The outbreak of Ebola started in Guinea and then moved across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia. And the outbreak in 2018-19 in eastern DRC is highly complex affecting public health.

Ebola Virus family

The family of Ebola Virus includes three genera: First let us tell you that the virus family is Filoviridae which includes three genera namely Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus, and Ebolavirus. Six species within the genus Ebolavirus have been identified namely Zaire, Bundibugyo, Sudan, Taï Forest, Reston and Bombali. In 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa belongs to Zaire Ebola virus species.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD): Transmission

The host of natural Ebola virus belongs to Pteropodidae family which is a fruit bat. In to the human population it enters by close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other fluids of infected animals like fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope found ill or dead in the rain forest. Human to human transmission by direct contact through broken skin or mucuous membranes like from the blood of a person who is sick or has died from Ebola, contaminated objects with body fluids like blood, feces, vomit from a sick person with Ebola or from the dead body of a person who died from This disease.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD): Symptoms

The time interval from infection with the virus onset of symptoms is from 2 to 21 days. If a person is infected with Ebola but until and unless symptoms will not arise in a person disease will not spread.

High Fever


Muscle pain


Sore throat


Stomach pain

Lack of appetite




Symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function

Internal and external bleeding in some cases like oozing from the gums, blood in stools etc.

Low white blood cell and platelet counts.

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How Ebola Virus Disease is diagnosed?

How Ebola Virus is diagnosed


It can be difficult to clinically diagnose Ebola Virus Disease from other infectious diseases like malaria, typhoid and meningitis.

Below mentioned are some diagnostic methods due to which Ebola Virus infection can be diagnosed:

- Antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)

- Antigen-capture detection tests

- Serum neutralisation test

- Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay

- Electron microscopy

- Virus isolation by cell culture

Let us tell you that Diagnostic tests are also evaluated through the WHO Emergency Use Assessment and Listing process.

 WHO has also recommended some current tests that include:

- For routine diagnostic management, Automated or semi-automated nucleic acid tests (NAT).

- Rapid antigen detection tests for use in remote settings where NATs are not readily available.

These mentioned above tests are recommended for screening purposes as part of surveillance activities.

The samples that are collected from patients are an extreme biohazard risk. All the specimens collected are packed by using triple packaging system when transported nationally or internationally.

Is Ebola Virus Disease is a contagious disease?

Ebola Virus Disease can be highly contagious. The person becomes contagious when the first symptoms begin to appear like fever until he or she dies. After the death of a person, his or her body is extremely contagious until its cremation or burial. If an individual survives with the Ebola Virus Disease, the person remains contagious for approximately 21 to 42 days after the symptoms abate. It is also said that the Ebola viruses have been detected in the semen of men's for many months and in the eyes of males and females for months but it is not clear yet how much contagious is the virus in these locations.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD): Treatments

Treatment of Ebola Virus Disease is often limited which includes:

- Intravenous (IV) fluids and electrolytes to treat dehydration,

- Maintaining blood pressure

- Providing oxygen

- Blood transfusions that is replacing blood through transfusions, and treating additional infections that may develop subsequently.

- Treatment for other infections

In the ongoing outbreak of Ebola Virus in 2018-19 in Congo, the first time multi-drug randomised control trial is being conducted to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the drugs used in the treatment of the patients. Currently potential treatments are being evaluated including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies.

Ebola Virus Disease: Vaccine

Vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV is being used in the outgoing outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in DRC. This vaccine was proved highly protective against EVD in Guinea in 2015.

Ebola Virus Disease: Prevention and Control

- Wildlife-to-human transmission should be reduced.

- Risk of human to human transmission should be reduced.

- Certain measures should be taken care like safe and dignified burial of dead body that suffered from EVD, identifying people who are suffering from EVD and monitor their health for 21 days etc.

- Sexual transmission should also be reduced.

Ebola Virus: Key facts

- In 1976, Ebola Virus was first discovered near the Ebola River in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

- Ebola Virus gets its name from the Ebola River which is in one of the village in the DRC.

- Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is also known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever.

- Ebola virus spreads to people through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD.

- The average Ebola Virus Disease case fatality rate is around 50%. In past outbreaks, case fatality rate varied from 25% to 90%.

- Engagement of Community is the key to successfully controlling the outbreaks.

- Outbreaks can be controlled case management, preventing infection and control practices, surveillance and contact tracing, good laboratory service, dignified burials and social mobilisation.

- Vaccines to protect Ebola Virus Disease are under development.

- There are 6 genuses of Ebola Virus and of these only four (Ebola or Zaire, Sudan, Tai Forest, and Bundibugyo viruses) causes disease in people. Rest virus is known to cause disease in nonhuman primates and pigs but not in humans.

So, now you may have come to know about the Ebola Virus Disease, how it is caused, its symptoms, treatment, prevention and control.

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