What Are the Ebola Virus Effects?
The Ebola virus can have devastating effects on humans, causing serious acute illness that can be fatal if not treated. Since Ebola virus disease first appeared in 1976, various outbreaks have occurred throughout the decades. Spurned by the most recent outbreak in West Africa that began in March 2014, medical communities across the globe have combined efforts to develop effective treatments for those impacts and even eventually a vaccine that will prevent future outbreaks altogether. Here’s a look at the Ebola virus effects on those afflicted and some of the treatment options currently available.
Effects of Ebola Virus on the Human Body
In part, the symptoms of Ebola result from the body’s release of certain immune-system chemicals called cytokines. According to WHO, first symptoms include sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. This is followed by bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases both internal and external bleeding.
On a deeper level, the virus is known to be systemic, which means the infection attacks every tissue and organ of the body except the skeletal muscles and bones. This is why the virus is also characterized by hemorrhaging and blood clotting. Although it is yet to be discovered how the virus attacks human cells, it is hypothesized that they are able to release certain proteins that can weaken the responses of the body’s immune system. The virus can even attack the connective tissues that are rapidly multiplying in collagen. Collagen is responsible for keeping the organs in place, and the virus destroys and digests such tissues.
It also causes blood clots in the bloodstream, so the blood thickens and the blood flow weakens. These clots tend to get stuck in the blood vessels, which in turn causes the red spots on the skin. As the disease progresses, the spots get bigger. The blood clots will also slow down the blood supply to most organs of the body such as the lungs, brain, liver, intestines, kidneys, testicles, and breast tissues. All these organs will become severely damaged and so, will eventually stop functioning.
Many patients who survive Ebola report experiencing long-term effects as well. Later symptoms reported include hair loss, body aches, and insomnia. Muscles and nerves can be directly injured by the virus and take a long time to recover. Survivors have also reported eye pain and vision loss. These long-term effects have not been well studied, but progress is being made on how they can be alleviated if not prevented.
Catching Ebola early appears to be a key factor in successful treatment, with early supportive care in terms of rehydration and symptomatic treatment significantly improving survival rates. While there is as yet no licensed treatment that’s been proven to neutralize the virus, there are several blood, immunological, and drug therapies currently under development.
At this time, there are no vaccines in circulation that protect against Ebola. However, there are several clinical trials for vaccine candidates being currently run, and the hope is that a safe and effective Ebola vaccine will be available by the end of 2015.