What is Ebola and how is it spread?

Almost 500 people have died in the latest West African Ebola outbreak

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 467 people according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has warned that “drastic action” is needed to contain the disease.

As Health Minsters from 11 West African countries meet to discuss the crisis on Thursday, here is everything you need to know about the disease.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is an acute viral disease, with its first known case appearing in 1976 in simultaneous outbreaks in Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the WHO. It takes its name from the Ebola River near the latter Congolese village.

Once infected, the virus will attack the victim’s internal organs. 

Those infected will initially show symptoms including a fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. 

This will then develops into vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, a combination of internal and external bleeding.

Members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) put on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated.
How is it spread?

Fruit bats are thought to be the natural hosts of the virus. Humans become infected during close contact with the blood, organs and other bodily fluids of animals harbouring the disease.

Other animals which have spread the disease in Africa include primates, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

Human-to-human infection occurs when contact is made with broken skin or mucous membranes, or with the bodily fluids of carriers. Men who have recovered from the disease can have contagious semen for up to 7 weeks.

The highly contagious nature of the disease means that areas that have come in contact with theses fluids also become infected; meaning that burying a person who has died from Ebola is problematic.

During outbreaks, 9 in 10 people die from the virus.

Staff of the 'Doctors without Borders' ('Medecin sans frontieres') carry the body of a person killed by viral haemorrhagic fever Staff of the 'Doctors without Borders' ('Medecin sans frontieres') carry the body of a person killed by viral haemorrhagic fever
How is it diagnosed?

Before Ebola can be identified as the disease affecting a person, other conditions including malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, and other haemorrhagic fevers must be ruled out.

Laboratory tests can then be used to confirm the disease, but these samples are an extreme biohazard and tests must be carried out under controlled conditions.

How is it treated?

While Ebola vaccines are being tested, none are currently available for preventative use.

There is no known cure for the disease. Patients must be treated in isolation where they are given fluids to prevent dehydration.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Garden Centre complex base...

    Recruitment Genius: Buyer

    £36000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Buyer is required to join thi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen