The Ebola Virus
In the United States, no case of Ebola virus infection in humans has ever been reported. Ebola-Reston virus caused severe illness and death in monkeys imported to research facilities in the United States and Italy from the Philippines; during these outbreaks, several research workers became infected with the virus, but did not become ill.
Researchers have hypothesized that the first person with Ebola became infected with the virus through contact with an infected animal. However, just as scientists are unsure of the animal host for the Ebola virus, they are also unsure how an outbreak occurs.
Once transmission occurs to a human, the virus is spread from human to human through direct contact with people who have the disease, or through contact with their body fluids (such as blood or secretions). Transmission of the virus is most likely to occur during the later stages of teh disease.
Ebola symptoms usually start abruptly. They can include:
- Sore throat
- Severe headache
- Joint and muscle aches
- Dry, hacking cough
- Stomach pain
- Internal bleeding
- External bleeding.
(Click Ebola Symptoms for more information.)
In order to make a diagnosis, the doctor will look for signs and symptoms of Ebola by asking a number of questions and performing a physical exam. If the doctor suspects an Ebola virus infection, he or she will order lab tests that can identify either the virus itself or antibodies made by the body against the virus.
Other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Therefore, before making a diagnosis, the doctor will consider these conditions and rule them out. Some of these include: