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Deadly Ebola virus: 12 quick facts

26 March 2014, 12:56 Susan Erasmus

A man, showing symptoms of a haemorrhagic disease, is being kept in isolation in a hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. He had recently travelled to West Africa.

Here’s more about the deadly Ebola virus, which occurs naturally in sub-Saharan Africa.

- Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever that can cause massive bleeding from internal organs and body orificies, and is often fatal.

- It is a viral disease, most common in tropical areas. There have been Ebola outbreaks in Zaire, Sudan, Gabon and Uganda.

- This disease has no known cure, which is one of the reasons why it is so feared.

- The most common  haemorrhagic fever found in South Africa is Crimean-Congo fever, of which there are usually several cases each year.

- These viruses are suspected to survive in certain animal populations (they seldom die of it) and is thought to be spread by an intermediary such as a mosquito.

- Once it has taken hold in a human population, it is spread via bodily secretions and contact with contaminated objects. It is not known whether this virus can be spread via airborne particles.

- Haemorrhaging is the result of the destruction of blood coagulation factors.

- Symptoms include severe headache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, a rash, severe bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract and other orifices, such as the eyes, ears, nose and vagina, and coma.

- Laboratory tests must be performed as soon as possible to determine the specific haemorrhagic disease. Only one laboratory in SA (the National Institute for Communicable Diseases) is equipped to perform tests for Ebola.

- The treatment for Ebola usually consists of supportive care: maintaining blood pressure, oxygen levels and fluid and electrolyte balances, and protecting against other infections. Blood transfusions are also often given.

- Patients are usually kept in isolation in hospitals and extreme care must be taken to prevent the spreading of this potentially fatal fever.

- Health24

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