Belfast Telegraph

Ebola: Facts about deadly virus that has killed thousands

Q: What is Ebola and where did it originate?

A: The disease is one of the most deadly found on Earth, with no proven cure or vaccine. It first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

Q: How did people first become infected?

A: Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. Fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.

Q: How does the virus spread?

A: Ebola is transmitted from human to human through direct contact with infected people, their blood, bodily fluids or other secretions. This helps explain in part the rapid infection rate in Africa, where mourners often come into direct contact with the dead in burial ceremonies. It is not airborne.

Q: How long from infection can someone expect to experience symptoms?

A: The incubation period is two to 21 days. A patient is not contagious until he or she starts showing signs of the disease.

Q: What are the symptoms of those who contract it?

A: It is 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.

Q: How is it being treated?

A: There is no cure or vaccine, so patients are given basic care to keep them hydrated, maintain their blood pressure and treat any complicating infections.

Q: So, everyone who contracts it dies?

A: No. Outbreaks can have a fatality rate of up to 90%, although the average is around 50%. In west Africa, it is 60-70%.

Q: What treatment did a US aid worker who survived get?

A: He received an experimental, unproven treatment, Zmapp. Its effectiveness is not known yet.

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