A depiction of the ebola virus.
The Ebola virus, or Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a type of RNA virus that causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It is highly contagious and is often fatal in humans and some primates, like monkeys and gorillas. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is infected.
It got its name from a river in Africa where it was first discovered in 1976. It has appeared from time to time since then. It was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which used to be Zaire.
Ebola virus is a member of a family of RNA viruses called the Filoviridae. There are four identified subtypes of Ebola virus. Three of the four have caused disease in humans:
- Ebola-Ivory Coast
The fourth, Ebola-Reston, has caused disease in nonhuman primates.
It is not known where the virus originated, but it did start with animals (zoonotic). The Ebola-Reston virus has its origin in cynomolgus monkeys that were imported to the United States and Italy from the Philippines. There have been no reported cases of the Ebola virus infecting a human in the United States, but the virus has been detected in:
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- The Ivory Coast
Spread of the Virus
Researchers believe that the first human who contracts Ebola gets the virus from an animal. Then the virus can spread from human to human. Spreading usually occurs in the latter stages of the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, has labeled the Ebola virus a Category “A” agent. This means that it could be a great threat to the public health and has the potential to spread rapidly.
Outbreaks of Ebola
Since it spreads through direct contact, it can occur even after death, as people who prepare the body for burial can become infected. Without proper protection, it can also spread in hospitals, especially if needles or syringes are used without being sterilized between uses.
It has been spread by airborne particles in the research lab, but no cases have been documented where this has happened in other surroundings.
The incubation period (time between infection and appearance of symptoms) for Ebola is from 2-21 days. During that time it is multiplying in the body, and the person will have no symptoms.
Origin of Ebola (virus)after Ebola River, Democratic Republic of the Congo, near which there was an outbreak of the virus in 1976
Origin of Ebola virusAfter the Ebola, River in northwest Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the disease was first observed.