EbolaMarch 1, 1996Imagine going on vacation to a foreign country and when you come home youare horribly sick. Your head hurts, you have a highfever, and you startvomiting.
Chances are that you may havecontracted the Ebola virus. Ebola was first discovered in the village of Yambuku(1) nearthe Ebola Riverin Zaire. Since its discovery, there have beenfour outbreaks of this disease. There are three known strains, ofvariations of ebola. There is no known cure forthis disease(2). Ebola has become one of the most mysterious and feared virusesonthe face of this earth.
Ebola’s first documented appearance was in Zaire in 1976. Noone knowswhere ebola comes from or what the original host is. However, scientists knowthat man is not ebola’s natural host(3). The host was first suspected of beingcarried by monkeys in the African rain forests(4), but in one case the monkeysat a holding facility broke out and had to be killed. In the pursuit of a cure and an origin, there have beenseveral teams ofscientists whose top priority is to find theviruses origin(5).Order now
The teams havetrekked through the rainforests of Africa to collecting different species ofanimals,bugs, and plant life. Bugs are also collected from the hospitals andfrom the surrounding huts of the villages. So far 36,000specimens have beencollected. Once they have been gathered, the specimens are put into liquidnitrogen and flown back to theUnited States, where they are studied at theCenters for DiseaseControl in Atlanta Georgia and the Army Medical ResearchInstituteof Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick Md.
,(6). Researchers havediscovered the source of human infection for all level fourorganisms exceptebola(7). This means that all organisns that cause deadly viruses have beencontained and studied, and have had antibodies created to ward of the illnessesthat are caused. Although Ebola is a mystery to humans, the virus isrelatively hard to catch and it kills quickly, lessening the chance victims willinfect others. It is transmitted by contactwith bodily fluids like blood, vomitand semen or contaminated syringes and is not known to be passed along throughcasual contact(8).
When the first outbreak of ebola occurred, it was in 1976 in Zaire and inSudan at the same time. There were 318 cases reported in Zaire and 240 of thosecases proved to be fatal. In Sudan, there were 284 cases and 134 of those casesproved to befatal. In 1979, there was another small epidemic in the same regionof Sudan. In 1989 there was a breakout in Reston Virginia,at a monkey holdingfacility, that killed over 400 monkeys thathad been shipped from the Phillines. This strand however, is only lethal to monkeys and id not a threat to humans(9).
In 1995, there was an outbreak in Kikwit Zaire that claimed 233 lives. Atleast7 people survived that outbreak becauses of a new breakthrough that is apossible solution to the loss of lives that are suffered in a outbreak. Bloodfrom one surviving patient can be transfusedto a person of the same blood typeto possibly save the persons life. Such was the case in 1995(10). Scientistswere able tofind who the first person to contract the virus was in 1995.
Theman’s name was Gaspard Menga. Menga infected his family, and his familyinfected others(11). Menga is known as the index patient. The reason it is soimportant to have the index patient is thatthis way they can trace the patientsmovements and try to find the origin of the virus.
Scientists are now arguingthat if there wasn’t so much interference with the rain forests thattherewouldn’t be new diseases emerging all the time(12). The most recent outbreak happened in January of 1996 in a small village ininland Zaire. Two children were playing when the came upon a dead chimpanzeeand they took it back to the village where the villagers celebrated for thefinding of such a wonderful thing. The reason this was so celebrated wasbecause meat is rare in that village. Anyone who helped clean or cook the animalbecame ill with the deadly ebola virus. The final death count was 16 people.
Villagers have been warned not to eat any animals that they find already deadand to be careful not to eat any sick animals that they may encounter. Scientists now believe that monkeys are not the original host because theyseem to just as susceptible to the disease as humans. Scientists are hopingthat they will make some substantial discoveries with this outbreak. (13). Scientists do know that ebola is a strand of seven proteins(14) thatbelongs to a family of viruses called filovirusus. The virus consists of ashell of proteinssurrounding genetic material.
The virus attaches itself to ahost cell, and changes the chemicals makeup to fit its own so that itcanreproduce(15). Ebola is a hemorrhagic virus that has a short incubation period of abouttwo days to two weeks(16). It causes high fever,chills, internal and externalbleeding, vomiting, the eyes turnred and the skin becomes blotchy and bruisesappear. The surfaceveins and arteries erode.
Organs liquify and blood flowsfrom every opening in the body including the eyes and ears(17). This isfollowed by a painful death that usually occurs within threeweeks(18). There arethree known strains of The virus. Ebola Zaire,ebola Sudan, and ebola Reston.
Ebola Zaire is the most lethal ofthe three followed by ebola Sudan and thenebola Reston. EbolaReston is the least worried about because it has not provedto be hostile to humans. The question of whether or not this virus couldbecome airborne has struck fear in many. Scientists say that it isunlikely thatit will become airborne, because it is killed by ultraviolet rays within seconds. The only way that it could survive is if it mutated to become resistant toultraviolet rays. At this point, a person is more likely to contract HIVthanit is to contract the ebola virus, although it takes ten years to affect aperson the way ebola does in ten days.
Even though ebola is a very mysterious and feared disease, itis in theprocess of becoming more understood. It can destroy an entire city in a matterof weeks, and could wipe out an entirenation if it ever became airborne, but itis a very difficult disease to contract so the united states is probably safefrom anynear future epidemics. On the other hand many third world countriescould have serious problems if there is an outbreak due to unsanitary living andmedical conditions. The hospitals and medical personnel reuse needles that havebeen infected and they don’t uselatex or any other kind of gloves which can be acause of widespread sickness. Everyone hopes that diseases like ebola will notget out of control before a cure can be found. Such hopes seem unreasonable dueto the facilities available in some areas of the world.Science