The Ebola virus has been known to scientists for several decades, and during this time it has claimed the lives of more than a thousand people. Outbreaks of Ebola epidemics have been reported in Africa on a regular basis, but the 2014 epidemic broke all records. The terrible news of the fever deaths is shown regularly on TV and published in the media. Many are interested in what the Ebola virus is, how it is transmitted, is it possible to treat and prevent the disease, whether the epidemic will reach Europe and Russia.
What is the Ebola virus
The Ebola virus belongs to the filovirus family. In higher primates and humans, penetrating cells, it causes hemorrhagic fever. It was discovered in 1976 in Zaire in the Ebola River region, for which the disease caused by the virus received the same name.
The virus that causes the Ebola epidemic is like a long worm. In the photo, you can see the filamentous structure of the single-molecule single-stranded Ebola virus.
How the Ebola virus is transmitted
The Ebola virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever, is transmitted to humans from Egyptian bats, the bats of fruit-eating bats in whose blood they live. A diagram of the spread of Ebola disease is shown in the photo.
As a rule, infection occurs when the virus is transmitted not from the mice themselves, but from other animals. Among them are gorillas, chimpanzees, antelopes, porcupines.
The Ebola virus is transmitted from person to person through blood, secretions, semen and other biological fluids, as well as through contact with an infected environment. In most cases, Ebola infection occurs through broken skin or mucous membranes.
Burial rites in African countries also play a significant role in the spread of the disease. The Ebola virus is transmitted within a few days after the death of a patient.
Through semen, infection is possible even from a recovered person for seven weeks.
Infection of doctors and laboratory staff often occurs due to non-compliance with infection control standards.
Where do Ebola outbreaks occur?
Epidemics of Ebola haemorrhagic fever were recorded until 2014 several times in African countries. Among them are Congo, Zaire, Sudan, Gabon, Uganda. However, they did not have a modern scale. As of mid-August 2014, the Ebola virus has killed more than a thousand people.
The epidemic is raging in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia. Since the Ebola virus is of several types (Zaire, Sudanese, Reston, Ivory Coast, Bundibugios), it is difficult to say which of the strains caused the epidemic in a particular country.
Although many scientists argue that the terrible Ebola epidemic will not reach Russia and Europe, the first victim among Europeans has already appeared. A Spanish priest working in Liberia died of the infection. To prevent the spread of Ebola in Europe, the body was cremated without opening, and all objects that the infected came in contact with were destroyed or disinfected.
Some publications report that the facts of infection with Ebola disease in Europe in 2014 were hidden by the authorities so as not to create panic. At the same time, patients with suspected fever are placed in specialized medical institutions for diagnosis, treatment and testing of new medicines. However, there is no official confirmation of these facts yet.
The main symptoms of Ebola virus infection are similar for all strains of the virus (although there are cases of asymptomatic course of the disease with Reston fever with subsequent recovery):
- a sharp rise in temperature;
- headaches and muscle pains;
- throat inflammation (can be seen in the photo of a patient with Ebola);
- vomiting and diarrhea;
- disruption of the liver and kidneys;
- internal hemorrhages.
In patients, you may notice bruising due to increased permeability of blood vessels.
As a result of infection, the Ebola virus in the human body destroys almost all tissues except bone. The blood thickens, the inner walls of the vessels become covered with clots of red blood cells, as a result of which there is a violation of blood circulation, which ceases to flow to the internal organs.
The visible symptom of Ebola is the appearance of cracks in the skin with oozing blood from them, red spots, bruises, which are rapidly increasing in size. The skin becomes soft, plump, flakes off when pressed.
The surface of the tongue, gums bleeds, the eyeballs are filled with blood. This can be seen within a week after the first signs of the disease appear.
At the final stage of the course of Ebola, due to disturbances in the work of the brain, the patient has seizures, during which he beats in convulsions, and the blood affected by the virus is sprayed in different directions. As a result of non-compliance with the rules of caring for patients, it is during such seizures that infection most often occurs.
Death can occur within 5-7 days after the first symptoms of Ebola fever appear. In this case, the corpse literally decomposes before our eyes, since all organs are affected by the rapidly multiplying virus.
Ebola Disease Diagnosis
Infection with the Ebola virus is diagnosed when symptoms characteristic of the course of the disease occur, and contact with patients is suspected.
Even during the incubation period, which lasts from two days to three weeks, laboratory tests show in the blood a low level of platelets and white blood cells, reveal an increased content of liver enzymes.
To correctly diagnose Ebola disease, the following diseases are first excluded:
- typhoid and relapsing fever;
- hemorrhagic fevers caused by other viruses.
To make a definitive diagnosis of Ebola infection, a number of laboratory tests are required.
Ebola Disease Treatment and Prevention
The 2014 African Ebola outbreak is the largest on record. The news from the western countries of the continent is not very comforting. The number of victims is growing steadily, and even the WHO has authorized the use of a vaccine that has not been tested in humans.
There is no cure for Ebola, nor is there a proven vaccine for the virus.
The mortality rate from fever exceeds 90 percent, and doctors, in case of symptoms of the disease, can only help the body's immune system to cope with the virus on its own.
The main methods of treatment are aimed at combating dehydration, normalizing blood pressure, and regulating oxygen supply.
The problem in the treatment of the Ebola epidemic is that during infection, even before the first symptoms of fever appear, the virus infects the cells responsible for primary immunity - monocytes, dendrocytes, macrophages. Therefore, when faced with danger, the human body cannot engage in an active fight against a foreign organism. The virus is multiplying at an extraordinary rate, so by the time Ebola is diagnosed and treatment is started, key organs are already seized.
Development of an Ebola virus vaccine has been suspended due to lack of funds. However, in connection with the outbreak of the epidemic in Africa, WHO agreed to test it on those in contact with the sick.
The vaccine is based on a virus similar to the rabies virus. On its surface there is a protein glycoprotein with the Ebola virus, which enables the virus to detect the host cell and take control of it. The rest of the virus genome is different.Thanks to the vaccine, the body learns to recognize Ebola cells and turn on the body's defenses in the early stages of contracting the disease.
Ebola prevention measures must be followed when treating and caring for sick relatives, laboratory and healthcare workers. It is obligatory to wear a face mask, long-sleeved robe and gloves. Prevention measures also include hand and respiratory hygiene, safe injections, and burial.
Ebola virus in Russia
In 2014, there was no news of the spread of Ebola in Russia. However, in the history of our country there have been sad cases of infection with the disease.
So, in 1996, a laboratory assistant at the Virology Center of the Research Institute of Microbiology in Sergiev Posad died. During experiments to develop a vaccine, she gave injections to rabbits and accidentally injured her finger, as a result of which the virus entered the bloodstream.
Another death from the Ebola virus in Russia was registered in 2004. At the Research Institute of Molecular Biology of the State Scientific Center for Virology and Biotechnology "Vector" near Novosibirsk, she injected guinea pigs and injured her skin. Two weeks after the unsuccessful experiment, the laboratory assistant died.
Not a single case of Ebola has been reported among the population of Russia. Terrible outbreaks of fever like in Africa, which are covered in the news, in Russia are not predicted by any scientist. This is due to many factors.
First of all, contact with the patient's fluids is necessary to get infected with the Ebola virus. Even if an infected person arrives in the country, it is unlikely that other passengers will become infected, as could be the case with the flu.
In addition, potentially dangerous passengers with symptoms similar to those of Ebola are screened and, if suspected of having a dangerous virus in their blood, are hospitalized with all precautions.
Epidemic outbreaks of Ebola in 2014 were registered in those African countries in which funeral rites are strong, in which almost the entire village participates. During farewell rituals, people come into contact with the body fluids of the infected, which contain the virus for several days or even weeks. The literacy level of the population is quite low, and medicine is poorly developed, therefore, often no one reports the disease to special institutions, which cannot be said about Russia.