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Eight things you should know about the deadly Ebola virus

Published on Apr 2, 2014 8:24 PM
Staff of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) medical aid organisation carry the body of a person who has died from a viral haemorrhagic fever at a centre for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou in Guinea, West Africa, on April 1, 2014, where an outbreak has killed 78 people. -- PHOTO: AFP

An outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Guinea, West Africa has killed 78 people, prompting travel alerts and putting the spotlight back on one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Cases have been confirmed in several locations in Guinea, including the capital Conakry.

This is in contrast to previous outbreaks, which were much more geographically contained. They also occurred in more remote places. 

Here’s what you should know about the viral haemorrhagic fever.

1. The World Health Organisation (WHO) calls it “one of the most virulent diseases known to humankind”.

2. It can kill up to 90 per cent of the people who are infected with it.

There has been more than 1,800 Ebola cases, with nearly 1,300 deaths.

3. Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.

4. The virus first appeared in 1976 in Nzara, Sudan and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It took its name from the Ebola River, which was near the village in Yambuku where the outbreak occurred.

4. Ebola can be caught from both humans and animals.

It is transmitted through close contact with blood, secretions or other bodily fluids. Fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.

5. It spreads quickly through human-to-human transmission, as family and friends care for infected people.

Health-care workers have frequently been infected while treating Ebola patients.

6. Symptoms can appear from two to 21 days after exposure. Early symptoms such as rashes and red eyes are common, making it hard to diagnose in the early stages.

7. The virus spreads in the blood and paralyses the immune system.

Ebola is often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.

This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding such as from the nose or via a person’s urine.

8. There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for people or animals.

Sources: WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières