Ebola is one
of the scariest virus species in nature. With Ebola
Zaire's spectacular death rate of 9 out of 10 infected
(compared to slightly over 1 out of 4 for smallpox and
the Bubonic Plague) it is a very difficult virus to work with
in the lab. Ebola belongs to the family Filoviridae, which includes Ebola Zaire, Ebola
Sudan, and Ebola Tai Forest, Ebola Reston and Marburg.
Ebola Reston has not been proven to be fatal to humans
but the other three strains have very high death rates.
Marburg is a less fatal variant of Ebola.
definitely contagious through bodily fluids, but it is
unknown if it can be transferred through the air, or
other forms of indirect contact. Fortunately, Ebola does
not spread very rapidly. It is possible that this is
because it kills you before it can be passed to another
host, or it may be that it is simply not very contagious.
of internal tissues.
In the book
"The Hot Zone", Richard Preston gives a
timeline of what happens to patients with Ebola, based on
what is known of the first recorded case. I have
paraphrased his important points here.
- The headache begins,
typically, on the seventh day after exposure in the form
of a throbbing pain behind the eyes, the pain grows worse
and the eyeballs hurt. Medication has no affect. The pain
moves around between the eyes and the temples. Then a
- On the third day after the
headache starts the victim becomes nauseated and spikes a
fever, and vomiting begins.
- When the vomiting becomes
intense dry heaves, the victim becomes strangely passive,
presumably from brain damage. The face loses all
appearance of life and sets into an expressionless mask,
with the eyelids droopy, as if the victims eyes are
falling out and half closed at the same time. The
eyeballs are frozen in their sockets and turn a bright
red. The skin on the face turns yellowish with star like
red speckles. on the whole the victim will begin to look
- With this physical
transformation, there is a considerable psychological
change as well; becoming sullen, resentful, angry, and
very amnesia, the victim may seem like a zombie in
behavior as well.
- this will continue for a few
days and then the victim will regurgitate the substance
known as vomito negro or black vomit. this is a
red liquid speckled with black, it is blood that has come
into the stomach as the Ebola virus eats away at the
stomach wall. The red dots on the victims face have
become swollen, purple bruises, and the connective tissue
on the face has corroded so that the entire face is black
and blue, and literally hanging from the bone.
- The victim holds his/herself
ridged as if any movement would rupture something inside
of them. Blood has began to clot all over the blood
stream, the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, hands and feet
are all becoming jammed with blood clots. In essence a
full body stroke is occurring and the blood is slowing
down enough to kill the internal organs. The intestines
are dead or dying, and personality is being wiped away by
brain damage, this is called depersonalization and it
means that the brain has been liquefied by the virus to
the point that only the basic instincts and functions are
- Soon after nose bleeds begin
signaling the last stage of the attack. As the victims
flesh deteriorates, the body becomes a virus time bomb.
- The last phase occurs only
after the victim has vomited all stomach contents and
much blood and has lost most human personality
characteristics, after all this, the victim "crashes
and bleeds out". feeling dizzy and utterly weak, the
spine goes limp and nerveless and all sense of balance is
lost.the room turns around and around. the victim is
going into shock. then, leaning over head on the
knees a huge amount of blood is expelled with a gasping
groan. consciousness is lost and the now limp body is
pitched forward onto the floor. The only sound is a
choking in the throat while the vomiting continues while
the he/she is unconscious. Then the sound of a bed sheet
being torn in half, which is the sound of the bowls
opening and venting blood from the anus. The blood is
mixed with intestinal lining. The gut has been sloughed.
The linings of the intestines have come off and are being
expelled with huge amounts of blood.
only treatment is to prevent shock and give psychological
help to the victim. There is little or no hope of finding
a vaccine for any of the Ebola family members, however,
There is a possible treatment involving blood
transfusions between survivors and current victims. This
could result in a survivor giving the patient antibodies
to help the body fight of the virus. Unfortunately this
procedure has several draw backs,
We are unsure
of how safe the procedure is.
There are not
enough survivors to save everyone.
- There has been only limited
success in the past with this treatment.
- Medical staffs cannot come in
direct contact with the patient without endangering
themselves and others.
in 1976 two epidemics broke out in
Africa, one in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the
Congo), and one 600 km away in Sudan. Together they infected 550
people and killed 430. This is equal to almost 80% of those
infected dying 60% of those infected in Sudan and up to 88% in
In 1989 Ebola Reston was
discovered in monkeys, but this closely related cousin does not
seem to be harmful to humans.
The most recent strain was first
discovered in 1994, in a Swiss Zoologist after he did an autopsy
on a chimpanzee that had Ebola Tai Forest. He survived the virus.
Afterwards there were infections
of Ebola Tai Forest and deaths in Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, and