by: Tate Powell


History: In 1976, Ebola viruses were found near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The virus can be found in several African countries today. The outbreak of 2014 is considered the largest outbreak, claiming the lives of 49 in West Africa's Congo region. A total of 66 cases were reported during that time (August to November of 2014), including 2 cases involving US healthcare workers who were in contact with affected patients. To date, over 11,000 have died as a result of this disease, world-wide.

Affects on the body: Early symptoms are minor (see below); however, in the advanced stages, the virus destroys the heptocytes cells, which control liver function. The virus also attacks phagocytes blood cells which help to fight infection by absorbing foreign particles in the blood. The endothelial cells are also compromised, and those cells form the lining of the blood vessels. In the advanced stages of Ebola, the victim suffers kidney failure. Ebola is a deadly virus, affecting the body's most vital organs, blood, and the circulatory system.


Transmission of the disease: The virus is spread when humans consume infected meat from non-human primates, or when they come into contact with these animals or fruit bats. The fruit bat is believed to be the most common carrier of the disease.


Individuals affected: The virus is primarily found in countries of West Africa and concentrated in the Congo region. Healthcare workers who provide care, treatment, and handle the bodies of those who are infected are most at risk for this disease.

Mortality rate: The mortality rate of Ebola varies depending on the source. Rates range between 50% as reported by the World Health Organization to 70% as reported by the New England Journal of Medicine. Rates were higher during the outbreak of 2014 for victims in the affected West African countries.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of the disease: Symptoms can appear between 2 and 21 days after initial exposure. The early symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • muscle pain


Diagnosis & tests: Currently, the virus can be detected in a blood test conducted AFTER the onset of symptoms. Once the diagnosis is made by a physician, they are required by law (Federal) to report the case to the CDC and place the patient under quarantine.


Treatment options: Current treatment for Ebola is to treat the associated infections that occur during the onset and early stages of the virus. Treatment includes antibiotics for such infections and other medications to address fever, as well as IV fluids to prevent dehydration as a result of the diarrhea and vomiting. The main issue when treating a patient with Ebola is that they must be under mandated quarantine. The CDC requires a prescriptive process and strict policies when treating a person believed to have Ebola when it occurs in the US.

Cure?: There is no current cure for Ebola, nor is there an immunization.


Ways to prevent and/or immunizations?: The Ebola virus is not airborne; therefore direct contact with an infected person or carrier should be avoided. Healthcare workers who care for patients with Ebola should follow CDC regulations including the use of masks, respirators, goggles, protective suits, and gloves in addition to using the proper cleaning materials.