Ebola hemorrhagic fever
is the third deadliest infectious disease
known, after HIV
, which causes AIDS
(acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), and rabies
, which has an effective vaccine
. Though, if I had to choose between any of these three diseases, this would be first crossed off the list. You will soon see why.
The Disease Itself
The onset of the disease is quite rapid: Symptoms can occur within two to 21 days after infection, althought sometimes victims can be asymptomatic(Ebola Reston). Once symptoms begin to show, death can occur within days or after about a week at most. The first symptom is usually a headache, followed by steady fever. The virus causes patterns of clots and hemorrhages. The clots form throughout the body, filling capillaries and shutting off blood to parts of the internal organs, especially to the brain and liver (concidentally, your most vital organs.) This causes the affected organs to begin to die, and decay. You die from the inside out.
And as if it can't get worse, blood begins to leak through the capillaries and into the tissues, much like blood pools in a corpse, though by this point the blood will not clot, and the victim is still quite alive. The connective tissues lose their elastic nature and become not unlike thick soup. The body's internal cavities fill with blood, and blood leaks from all orifices and through the skin, which, engorged with fluid, becomes easily torn, leading to more bleeding. As the disease progresses, victims develop a fixed and expressionless face, probably as a result of bleeding within the brain. (stroke)
Consequences of Infection
Death comes from excessive blood loss and shock. The Ebola virus saturates all of the fluids flowing from the body, which flow quite enthusiastically and unrestrained, making it highly contact-infectious. Contaminated blood, mucus and even semen have been identified as routes for infection. There is evidence of a possible respiratory route of transmission, but only between non-human primates. Handling infected animals, humans or organs, as well as hypodermic needles having come into contact with a victim, are all infectious.
There is no vaccine against the Ebola virus, nor is there a cure once the disease has been contracted. The nature of the disease dictates a curb on scientific research, the results of which lead us to know very little of this horrifying disease.
In the End
Bloody, mushy death occurs in up to 90% of cases, making outbreaks anywhere in the world very serious indeed. Such epidemics have occured in Zaire, the Ivory Coast, and the Sudan in Africa, believed to be the melting pot of the virus. Somewhat recently (a little more than a decade) ago, an outbreak occured on American soil with one known human casualty.
Lastly, For the Morbidly Curious
You can find videos of ebola patients on the internet, if you're really that masochistic.