Ebola Virus Disease: Transmission and Treatment

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Ebola virus causes ebola virus disease (EVD). It is a zoonosis, i.e. transmitted from animal to humans and from human to human afterwards. There are five different viruses of same family (filoviridae family) that cause human infection, Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV), Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV), Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV), Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV), Reston ebolavirus (RESTV). Among these the Reston ebolavirus causes a mild form of disease and fatality is rare.

How ebola virus is transmitted?

The most common and important mode of transmission of ebola virus is by close contact and by transfer of body fluids from infected persons, in home or in hospital. Commonly ebola epidemics start with a single human case that is acquired from an unknown natural reservoir (wild animal reservoir such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines), which than quickly spread from contact to contact to become epidemic. Commonly the infection starts from handling of infected ill or dead wild animals. Once virus enters a human host it spreads from one person to another. For example, the current epidemic of ebola virus disease in West Africa is reported to have started by a boy of 2 years old.

Ebola virus transmission occurs from human to human contact by way of body fluid transfer, such as blood, semen (hence, sexual transmission possible), body secretions or any organ. Even during burial of the dead patient, relatives who come in direct contact with the victim can contact the disease. Men can remain infectious even 7 weeks after recovery and spread the disease via semen.

Health care providers can get infected by handling the suspected or confirmed patients with ebola virus, if they do not follow strict infection control precautions. The risk of transmission appears to be higher among imminocompromised individuals, pregnant women, children and persons with chronic serious underlying medical conditions.

Treatment of ebola virus disease (EVD):

There is no effective medicine available against ebola virus for treatment. The treatment is mainly symptomatic. Case fatality rate can be as high as 90% during epidemic outbreak of the disease. Patients should be treated in intensive care unit where all medical equipments are available for treatment of emergencies such as shock.

Is there any vaccine against ebola virus?

Currently there is no vaccine available against ebola virus and reports indicate that, earliest a vaccine may be ready for use in 2015.

“Image courtesy of Praisaeng / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

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