Ebola, or Ebola virus disease, is a serious illness caused by the Ebolavirus. It is a viral infection that is often fatal in humans. It first appeared in 1976 in West Africa.
Ebola is an infectious disease. The virus originated in animals and spread to humans. The Ebola virus is spread between humans through direct contact with infected body fluids: urine, saliva, blood, vomit, feces, and semen, or indirect contact with contaminated instruments and objects that have not been properly disinfected.
When people contract Ebola, sepsis often develops as the body tries to fight the infection. Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival.
Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly) and/or amputations.
Symptoms of Ebola
It is possible to have the Ebola virus for between 2 to 21 days before showing signs of illness. However, the most common scenario is that someone who is infected will start to show signs between 8 and 10 days after exposure. The symptoms often set in very suddenly and can, at first, make the person feel like they have the flu. The initial symptoms may include:
- Extreme weakness
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
These may be followed by:
- Shutting down of kidney function
- Shutting down of liver function
- Internal and external bleeding
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation
People who survive Ebola may still be infectious (can spread the disease) for several weeks. It is only once the virus is not detected in the body fluids that they are no longer infectious.
There is no treatment for Ebola at this point. People who have Ebola often develop sepsis, so treatment involves trying to keep them from going into septic shock and managing organ dysfunction, such as kidney shut down, dropping blood pressure, difficulty breathing, etc. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), those who die from Ebola usually die from shock, low blood pressure.
Ebola is prevented by avoiding the spread of the virus, which means people must avoid being in contact with the body fluids of someone who has the disease or has died from the disease, and any contaminated objects. If there is any reason to believe that someone has been infected with the Ebola virus, he or she must be isolated immediately. Anyone who has contact with the infected person must observe full blood and body fluid barrier technique, using gloves, gowns, and eye protection at all times.
Ebola in North America
The first known case of Ebola in North America was diagnosed in Dallas, Texas. A visitor from Liberia Thomas Eric Duncan, became ill not long after arriving in the U.S. On September 28, 2014, he was admitted to the hospital Hfever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. On October 1, Duncan had sepsis. He died a few days later (Records Chronicle How Ebola Kills).
Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.
Updated December 13, 2017