According to the US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola is a rare and fatal disease caused by infection with a strain of Ebola virus. The fact that the 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history should be enough motivation for everyone to know the basics of the disease.

Ebola Virus | Photo from: www.cdc.gov
Ebola Virus | Photo from: www.cdc.gov

Ebola explained
Ebola has become a topic of conversation these past few months due to the alarming cases reported all over the globe, especially in numerous West African countries. Various scientists, as well as international and local health organizations, have been doing their best to raise public awareness to help prevent the spread of this malignant disease.

Historically, the first case of Ebola was recorded in 1976, when a young Belgian scientist named Peter Piot travelled to a remote area in Congo to find out the cause of death from an unidentified disease.

An aerial photograph that shows the small village of Yambuku in Zaire. Photo Credit: Dr. Joel G. Breman | via Live Science
An aerial photograph that shows the small village of Yambuku in Zaire. Photo Credit: Dr. Joel G. Breman | via Live Science

The virus was primarily discovered in the Yambuku village but since naming the virus after the village may be deemed as offensive, Piot’s team decided to name it after the nearest river. According to Live Science, one option was the Congo River. However, the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus was already in existence.

With the help of a small map, they plotted out the nearest river from Yambuku and that was the Ebola River. Ebola River means “Black River” in Lingala, the language spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Symptoms and Transmission

The Ebola Virus Disease or EVD is one of the most virulent viral diseases affecting humankind. It is a viral haemorrhagic fever with symptoms of fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, impaired kidney and liver functions, and internal and external bleeding. Rash, red eyes, hiccups and bleeding from body openings could occur in some instances.

The Department of Health (DOH) clarified that Ebola cannot be spread through air, water or food. The disease can be transmitted only through direct contact with the body of a deceased person; blood secretions, organ or other bodily fluids of infected animals; and body fluids and stools of an infected person via blood, vomit, pee, poop, sweat, semen or spit. One can also get the virus by using contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients.

Healthcare and laboratory workers who are exposed to secretions and specimens from the patient and family members, or those who are in close contact with the infected individuals, are prone to the virus.

EVD knows no boundaries

Because of the EVD outbreak in West Africa, an area known for its hot and dry climate, some have speculated that it may be a weather-related disease. But according to Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy of the Department of Health-National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (DOH-NCDPC), there is no scientific proof that weather affects the spreading of the Ebola virus. He added that as of now, there are no studies yet on how cold or warm weather stimulates the virus.

According to the CDC, countries with widespread transmission include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone while those with localized transmission are Madrid, Spain; Dallas, Texas and New York City, New York in United States. Mali in West Africa was affected with travel-associated cases.

Meanwhile, Nigeria and Dakar, Senegal were already declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Based on WHO’s report, more than 10,000 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and United States of America. Out of this number, nearly 5,000 patients have been reported dead.

Table: Chronology of previous Ebola virus disease outbreaks


Source: World Health Organization
Source: World Health Organization

Actions taken in the PH

In a press release of DOH dated on October 17, 2014, the department stated that it will conduct specialized training programs to raise awareness and response to EVD. With the help of WHO, the programs aim to deepen the understanding of health workers on the detection and treatment of EVD cases and to stop the infectious disease from spreading.

The training programs started on October 28 when Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy led the “Training on Hospital Management of Ebola Virus Disease” held at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

Department of Health
World Health Organization
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Live Science