Health A-Z

Ebola virus

Clinical Definition

Ebola virus, named after a river in Africa where it was first recognized in 1976, is typically zoonotic (i.e., animal borne, such as from monkeys) and can cause Ebola hemorrhagic fever, a serious and often fatal disease in people and animals alike. No approved anti-viral drugs are available, and the infection may result in a rapidly fatal hemorrhagic fever possibly marked by internal and external bleeding.

In Our Own Words

Ebola virus, first recognized more than three decades ago, can spread from animals to other animals and humans. In some cases, Ebola virus may cause a severe disease known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, possibly triggering massive bleeding followed by death in just two weeks. Viral hemorrhagic fevers most commonly occur in tropical areas of the world; cases in the United States usually involve people who have recently traveled globally.

After an incubation period of two to 21 days, symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Bleeding, both externally and internally, occurs in some patients.

Scientists have discovered more about the virus, recently realizing a protein that helps transport cholesterol across cell membranes also helps the Ebola virus enter. However, no standard treatment exists for the fever. The focus is on supportive care, including balancing of fluids and electrolytes, controlling blood pressure and maintaining oxygen flow.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Massive internal and external bleeding
  • Red eyes
  • Vomiting
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