Picture, for one moment, numerous bloody bodies lying scattered and moaning in agony in blood-soaked beds as the life is slowly and painfully drawn from them as if they were soldiers that had just returned from one of the deadliest wars in history, bruised, battered and broken by their enemy. But they had fought no war, and had never laid eyes on their enemy, for the very thing that was destroying them was living and replicating at an enormous rate, right inside their own bodies. This is the gruesome image of what a hospital looks like when its patients encounter the Ebola virus. Today the mention of its name alone can instill fear in anyone has heard much of its unpleasant effects. Yet, many do not just how horrible those effects are or just how Ebola has come to be what we know it as today. Ebola has only in fairly recent times emerged from its hiding place in the depths of the tropical rainforests of Africa and is now seen as one of the most lethal and efficient viral killers on the planet, certainly a potential bio-weapon threat that could prove extremely devastating.
Although Ebola is thought of as a very ancient virus, humans have only recently felt its presence on the Earth, and so its know history is brief, but significant. The Ebola virus was first recognized in September of 1976. (CDC "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever" para. 1) The only thing we knew then was that it was dangerous, very dangerous, and although much remains to be known about this virus, we have also learned a lot about it since its initial discovery. Ebola originated in the African rainforest regions surrounding Zaire, where the first cases were discovered. Other known cases of Ebola infections have occurred in Gabon, Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Uganda, and the Republic of the Congo. Although we know the general area from which the viruses came, we don't know exactly where or what it came from. However, scientists believe it is "normally maintained in an animal host that is native to the African continent" and that humans get it from contact with that animal. (CDC "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever", para. 3) Four distinct Ebola strains are known of, all of which belong to a family of viruses called the filoviridae. These are the Zaire, Sudan, Ivory Coast, and Reston strains, all of which can be lethal in humans and non-human primates such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees, except Ebola Reston, which does not affect humans. There is only one other identified filovirus, a close cousin of Ebola known as Marburg (CDC, "Filoviruses" para..2). The Zaire strain is the most lethal, with a 90% death rate. The outlook for an individual with Ebola is obviously not good no matter which strain they contract, however there have been cases of recovery from an infection, for reasons that are still not entirely known by doctors and scientists. It is known, however, that "the patients who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus at the time of death" (CDC "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever", para. 11). Ebola's, and the other filoviruses, structure resembles a piece of thread that can be in the form of several shapes including U's and 6's (CDC "Filoviruses" para. 2). This is unusual and rare as far as viruses are concerned, and it is believed that Ebola or viruses similar to it may have been on the earth since its very creation about 6 billion years ago.
The Ebola virus causes a dangerous and serious disease, called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, in primates such as humans and monkeys. Symptoms of Ebola HF can begin anywhere from 2 21 days after initial infection, depending on the strain (Izenburg 319). The symptoms come suddenly and begin with fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, a sore throat, and weakness. This is followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and intestinal and stomach pain. During the period before death, some patients may develop a rash, red eyes, and bleeding, both internal and external. This is known as "crashing and...
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