In the year 1976, Ebola climbed out of its unknown hiding place, and caused the death of 340 people. Fear gripped the victim’s faces, and uncertainty tortured their minds. The people of Zaire waited outside clinics, churches and in their homes for a treatment of the horrible disease, but there was no cure. They were forced to watch people die, hoping that they would be saved from the violent death of the Ebola virus. From the year of 1976 to the present date of 1996, researchers have searched for origin and cure of the virus. Scientists have carried out numerous studies and investigations, but no one has been able to find the right explanations. Prevention of a world wide outbreak lies within the education of what the virus is capable of doing, how Ebola victims can be properly treated , and by performing prompt action to isolate the virus before it has dispersed.
The Ebola virus is a member of a family of RNA viruses know as filoviruses. Marburg virus and four Ebola viruses: Ebola Zaire, Sudan, Reston and Tai are the five different viruses that have been known to cause disease in humans, while Ebola Reston only causes disease within monkeys. Filoviruses, arenaviruses, flaviruses, and bunyaviruses are the viruses responsible for causing viral hemorrhagic fevers. All forms of virus of viral hemorrhagic fever begin with fever and muscle aches. These diseases usually progress until the patient becomes very ill with respiratory problems, severe bleeding, kidney malfunctions, and shock. The conclusions of the viral hemorrhagic fever can range from a mild illness to death.
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Ebola viruses are spread though close personal contact with a person who is very ill with the disease. Usually the wide spread action of the virus takes place among hospital care workers or family members who were aiding an infected person. Ebola can spread by the reuse of hypodermic needles, which occurs frequently in underdeveloped countries like Zaire and Sudan, but it is unlikely to become infected by close contact with persons infected who show no symptoms.
The Ebola virus spreads through the blood and is replicated in organs, including the liver, lymphatic organs, kidneys, ovaries and testes. The central lesions appear to be those affecting the vascular endothelium and the platelets. The resulting symptoms are bleeding, especially in the nose, abdomen, pericardium and vagina. Capillary leakage appears to lead to loss of intravascular volume, bleeding, shock and the acute respiratory disorder seen in fatal cases. Patients basically die of intractable shock. Those with severe illness often have fevers and are delirious, combative and difficult to control.
Some victims of the Ebola virus, one out of ten people infected, survive the virus’s deadly operations. Due to its self limiting nature, the Ebola virus is known to sometimes die out within a person before killing the host organism.
Just like the history of wars and other social epidemics, the Ebola outbreaks need to be remembered and learned from. The first two Ebola outbreaks were in 1976, in the countries of Zaire and western Sudan. These were large outbreaks, resulting in more than 550 cases and 340 deaths. In 1979, Ebola mysteriously appeared in Sudan causing 34 cases and 22 fatalities. The most recent Ebola Zaire outbreak started with a surgery on a suspected Malaria patient in Kikwit, Zaire on April 10, 1995. As in the 1976 outbreak, secondary transmission of the virus in Kikwit occurred though close personal contact with infectious blood and other body fluids. Members of the surgical team then developed symptoms similar to those of a viral hemorrhagic fever disease. The Ebola Zaire in Kikwit spread quickly, but investigation and control of the outbreak come from a combined effort of medical teams from the Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, Belgium, France, and South African countries. Since July 1, 1995, 233 deaths have been reported among the 293 cases.
So has the Ebola virus ever made it to the United States? This question has come up in various letters to editors, and in FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the Internet. Truth is that in 1989 monkeys infected with Ebola Reston were imported to Reston, Virginia from the Philippines. Importation of African Green and rhesus monkeys was immediately brought to a halt, and was not resumed until the virus responsible for the quick deaths of these monkeys was analyzed. The scariest characteristic about the Ebola Reston was that it was known to have been airborne, and that it was efficiently killing the monkeys that had been imported form the Philippines (Palca, 1990). Reston, Virginia and the 149 workers who came in contact with the monkeys were grateful to find that the newly discovered Ebola Reston did not cause disease in humans. Of the 149 workers, none of the workers became ill and only two developed antibodies for the Ebola Reston (Marjorie, 1990).
The outbreaks of 1976 and 1979 left no evidence to what might have been carrying the Ebola before it was passed onto humans. To this date no clues have been uncovered about where the virus hides between outbreaks. Collection of animal specimens is currently underway in Kikwit, but the possible species in tropical Africa are so numerous that a long and lucky search is likely to be required.
The Ebola Tai found on November 24, 1995 by a Swiss researcher in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa. The researcher caught the Ebola Tai from a chimpanzee while carrying out an investigation about a spate of deaths among local chimps of the Tai forest. When the Pasteur investigators examined tissue taken from the dead chimpanzee, they found that the animal’s spleen and liver contained large areas of necrotic tissue resembling what had previously been found in autopsies of patients who perished from Ebola Zaire and Sudan. Instant investigation of the 4200 square-kilometer reserve of the Tai forest was launched, but to this day no trace to the location of Ebola has been found. The researcher was evacuated to a hospital in Switzerland where she recovered. The dedicated researcher has now returned to Ivory Coast to continue her work.
During most of these outbreaks, field teams of researchers have captured more than 3,000 birds and mammals, including small rodents and several thousand possible insects. Material of these animals are now being processed for virus isolation. Blood samples of an estimated 64 suspected cases have also been serologically confirmed. Still to this day, many questions like “Where is Ebola originally from?” and “Will Ebola Zaire, Sudan, or Tai be able to become air- born?” remain a mystery.
Information found from http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/5738/level2.html (Ebola Virus Information Head Quarters)copyright 1999 and http://www.lfc.edu/~musilam/bio1.htm copyright 1997
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