Ebola has been in the headlines recently as the first diagnosed case in the United States was announced on Sept. 30. in Dallas, Texas. The man in question, Thomas Eric Duncan, died of Ebola on Oct. 8.
The Ebola virus disease is a disease of humans and other mammals caused by an ebolavirus. Between two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, the first symptoms are a fever, sore throat, muscle pain, and headaches. As the disease worsens, the symptoms do too, including vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, and a decreasing function in both the the person’s liver and kidneys. When the symptoms set in, it is common to experience bleeding, both externally, and within the body. Death typically occurs anywhere from six to sixteen days after showing signs. It is usually caused by low blood pressure, then the loss of bodily fluids, and finally the body goes into shock.
The first known cases of the Ebola virus in humans occurred in 1976, when there were two outbreaks, one in Sudan, and another in the Republic of Congo, which infected more than 600 citizens. It is believed that the natural host of the Ebola virus disease, and the only known species that harbors the virus, is the fruit bat; specifically three types of fruit bats, the Hammer-Headed bat, Franquet’s Epauletted fruit bat, and the Little Collared fruit bat. These civilians are believed to have contracted the virus either by coming in contact with other species that had previously been infected by a bat, a bat directly biting and infecting them, or even by the handling of bats that are put into food, like bat soup, a delicacy in many of the African regions.
For more information on Ebola, check out the World Health Organization’s fact sheet.