Ebola Virus Disease : All You Wanted To Know

As the death toll reaches near 1000, the World Health Organization today declared Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as the ‘International health emergency’. It is the most deadly outbreak of the disease since its discovery in 1976. An ‘outbreak’ is considered to be over if not even a single case of the disease is found during twice the incubation period, in this case it being 42 days. There are chances of its spread across different other regions of the world leading to the threat to human life in a large number. At this juncture, we need to keep our self well aware about Ebola virus, its transmission and precautions that needs to be taken. In this article, we will know about what exactly Ebola virus is, its origin, mechanism of attack, symptoms, spread and other aspects.

What is Ebola Virus?

Ebola virus is a lethal pathogen responsible for several outbreaks of hemorrhagic (flowing of blood from a ruptured blood vessel) fever. The name Ebola comes from the first outbreak of the disease in 1976 in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, in a village situated near the Ebola River. EVD has ravaged four nations of West Africa, namely, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The recent outbreak began in March, originating from Guinea and spreading to other nearby nations. EVD is considered as one of the most deadly disease of the world with the fatality rate being up to 90%. The research related to development of vaccine against the disease is still in its infancy.
Ebola virus is classified into five different subtypes with the nomenclature based on the region where the virus subtype was first discovered. The first one is Zaire (named after Zaire, a region in Democratic Republic of Congo, discovered in 1976), Other subtypes are, Bundibugyo (an area in Uganda where it was discovered in 2007), Ivory Coast ebola (discovered in 1994), Sudan and Reston ebola (Reston is in State of Virginia, United States). The Reston ebola was identified in monkeys which were imported from Philippines. 

Mechanism of Attack:

As soon as the ebola virus enters the cells, it starts replicating itself leading to an increase in the number, this finally leads to the bursting of the cells. Thus, it comes out of the cells, producing a protein called ebolavirus glycoprotein, and attaches to the cells inside the blood vessels resulting into leakage of the blood from vessels. The consequences of such an aberrance leads to the decreased capability of the blood to coagulate and thicken.
Also, the ebola virus evades the body’s natural defense by blocking the signals to the neutrophils, which are responsible for alarming the immune system to attack.


Ebola virus disease in its early stage could be mistaken for typhoid, malaria, meningitis or plague, as the symptoms are similar to such diseases, that is, sudden fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. These symptoms generally appear after about 4- 9 days of infection and the incubation period may last to 21 days. At a later stage, it leads to vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function and internal or external bleeding. According to Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), patients may develop rashes, red eyes, hiccups, chest pain and difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

How EVD spreads?

The ebola virus spreads when a bodily fluid from an infected person comes in contact with another. There are myths about EVD being an airborne or waterborne disease but according to US Center for disease control and Prevention, this isn't the case. Moreover, the disease won’t infect you in case of casual contact with the patient, however, it should be avoided. Ebola spreads only if bodily fluids, i.e. blood, sweat, urine etc. comes in contact with your orifices. According to WHO, fruit bats could also be the reason behind the spread of ebola virus in Africa.
Economic backwardness is also a major reason for such an outbreak of the disease, as the hospitals lack resources and have poor infection control.


Till now there’s no cure or vaccine for EVD. However, experimental serum named ZMapp has been successful in healing two American missionary workers, as it contains the antibodies which help in blocking the virus. A person suffering from EVD is isolated, hydrated and the level of oxygen and blood pressure is maintained.

EVD: Threat to India

Keeping in view the vulnerability of EVD, Indian government has facilitated diagnosis of the disease at the National Institute of Virology in Pune and National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi. Moreover, about 45000 Indians are residing in the virus infected areas, making it necessary for the government to keep an eye on the travelers originating or transiting from ebola affected areas.
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