The Ebola Virus

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Imagine going on vacation to a foreign country and when you come home you are horribly sick. Your head hurts, you have a highfever, and you start vomiting. Chances are that you may have contracted the Ebola virus. Ebola was first discovered in the village of Yambuku(1) nearthe Ebola River in Zaire. Since its discovery, there have beenfour outbreaks of this disease. There are three known strains, ofvariations of ebola. There is no known cure for this disease(2).Ebola has become one of the most mysterious and feared viruses onthe face of this earth. Ebola's first documented appearance was in Zaire in 1976. Noone knows where ebola comes from or what the original host is.However, scientists know that man is not ebola's natural host(3).The host was first suspected of being carried by monkeys in the African rain forests(4), but in one case the monkeys at a holding facility broke out and had to be killed. In the pursuit of a cure and an origin, there have beenseveral teams of scientists whose top priority is to find theviruses origin(5). The teams have trekked through the rainforests of Africa to collecting different species of animals,bugs, and plant life. Bugs are also collected from the hospitals and from the surrounding huts of the villages. So far 36,000specimens have been collected. Once they have been gathered, the specimens are put into liquid nitrogen and flown back to theUnited States, where they are studied at the Centers for DiseaseControl in Atlanta Georgia and the Army Medical Research Instituteof Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick Md.,(6). Researchers have discovered the source of human infection for all level fourorganisms except ebola(7). This means that all organisns that cause deadly viruses have been contained and studied, and have had antibodies created to ward of the illnesses that are caused. Although Ebola is a mystery to humans, the virus is relatively hard to catch and it kills quickly, lessening the chance victims will infect others. It is transmitted by contactwith bodily fluids like blood, vomit and semen or contaminated syringes and is not known to be passed along through casual contact(8). When the first outbreak of ebola occurred, it was in 1976 in Zaire and in Sudan at the same time. There were 318 cases reported in Zaire and 240 of those cases proved to be fatal. In Sudan, there were 284 cases and 134 of those cases proved to befatal. In 1979, there was another small epidemic in the same region of Sudan. In 1989 there was a breakout in Reston Virginia,at a monkey holding facility, that killed over 400 monkeys thathad been shipped from the Phillines.

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