• Question: Could you explain me exactly what ebola is? please?

    Asked by jatomba19 to Marikka, Matt, Rob on 20 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Robert Hampson

      Robert Hampson answered on 20 Nov 2014:

      Ebola is a virus. This is a picture of it from a powerful microscope:

      All of the Ebola viruses, the Marburg viruses (a related disease actually discovered before Ebola) and the little known Cueva virus make up a group called the filoviruses. All viruses in this family form filamentous infectious viral particles. In other words, the viruses are long like a string.

      Normally Ebola is thought to infect bats, but it can also be found in pigs and primates. Occasionally, people pick it up from these sources by either eating “bushmeat” (a delicacy in parts of Africa essentially it is the meat of dead wild animals like bats and primates) or coming in very close proximity to infected animals like pigs.

      Once a human has been infected with the virus it causes something called hemorrhagic fever. Basically, the initial symptoms are like flu (like most serious viral infections). After the flu like symptoms, diarrhoea, vomiting and a rash usually follow. After this patients start bleeding internally and externally.

      It is believed that this bleeding is caused because the virus makes the patients blood form tiny clots throughout their circulatory system. This removes platelets and other factors useful for usual blood clotting, this leaves the patient very vulnerable to bleeding.

      Because of bleeding, and loss of fluids through vomitting and diarrhoea patients often die.

      It is easy for those in close proximity to sufferers or the dead to be infected with Ebola on contact with any bodily fluid. Unfortunately, the disease was often spread from dead relatives in the early stages of the crises due to funeral practices in West Africa.