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15 Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Ebola Virus Disease

Ebola or Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a serious and deadly disease that originated and caused an epidemic in the sub-Saharan African regions. The disease is caused by an Ebola virus that belongs to the Filoviridae family. Ebola is one among several virus types which are known to cause haemorrhagic fevers, a group of symptoms which are life-threatening.

Ebola is a zoonotic disease as it can get transmitted from infected animals such as fruit bats, monkey or chimpanzee to humans. The virus then spreads quickly from one person to another through infected body fluids or contaminated clothes or needles.

Currently, there's no licensed vaccine available that can prevent Ebola. However, several experimental treatment methods and supportive cares are available which are effective in reducing the symptoms up to certain levels.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Ebola Virus

The symptoms of Ebola start appearing in between 2-21 days after getting infected by the virus. At first, the symptoms look similar to flu or malaria fever, but soon, they start progressing and get life-threatening.

Take a look at the warning signs and symptoms of Ebola.

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1. Fever

Ebola viruses can cause severe forms of viral haemorrhagic fever known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever. It is commonly the first symptom of EVD recognised by a rise in the body temperature of an individual. [1]

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2. Chills

Chills include feelings of coldness accompanied by shaking and shivering. In some conditions, chills arise without fever. However, in Ebola, chills usually arise after the occurrence of fever.

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3. Sore throat

The percentage of occurrence of sore throat as an initial symptom of EVD is 56-58 per cent. Several reports say that the Ebola virus causes painful throat, like a sensation of dry rope or ball inserted in the throat region. [2]

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4. Severe headache

Headache is common in flu or the common cold, but severe headache can be a warning sign of Ebola. According to the CDC, in the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the severe headache was among the most reported symptoms.[3]

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5. Malaise

Malaise is referred to as a feeling of discomfort, restlessness or uneasiness. The malaise in Ebola usually comes after the primary symptoms such as fever, chills or headache.

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6. Lack of appetite

Ebola haemorrhagic fever usually affects all the body organs including the gastrointestinal system. This results in problems like lack of appetite in which the desire to eat is reduced leading to weakness or fatigue.

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8. Breathing difficulties

A study talks about the pulmonary involvement of the Ebola virus, suggesting that the virus may infect the respiratory system of a person. Scientists have found some evidence during the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak that the virus shed in the lungs lead to a risk of aerosol transmission, similar to that of COVID-19. This results in breathing difficulties, chest pain and other respiratory illnesses. [5]

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9. Stomach pain

Stomach pain is one among the gastrointestinal symptoms that usually follow a patient on 4-6 day after the onset of the illness. This can lead to hypovolemia (loss of bodily fluid or reduced blood volume) which may further lead to shock. [6]

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10. Fatigue and weakness

Ebola patients often feel intense fatigue and weakness, a symptom that makes a person extremly tired or lethargic, both physically and mentally. Fatigue and weakness usually follow due to vomiting, diarrhoea or loss of appetite.

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11. Red eyes

EVD can affect the quality of life of a person by leading to ocular diseases. Red eyes, photophobia or eye pain is common among EVD survivors. This may sometime lead to vision loss or other vision impairment. [7]

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12. Diarrhoea (may be bloody) and vomiting

Common gastrointestinal problems in Ebola include diarrhoea (70 per cent) and vomiting and nausea (60 per cent). These conditions can be life-threatening if not treated on time. The reason behind blood in the stool or vomit is still unclear, but it can be due to mucosal breakdown or bleeding of the gastro tract. [8]

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13. Unexplained haemorrhaging

Haemorrhaging refers to blood loss or bleeding. Haemorrhaging is the serious complication in EVD and the exact cause behind it is unknown. However, several theories say that haemorrhaging is due to platelet dysfunction in a serious ill Ebola patient. Possible bleeding can occur from ears, eyes, nose or rectum leading to the death of a person.

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14. Rashes on the skin

Ebola is also characterised by diffuse maculopapular rashes (both flat and raised skin bumps). The Ebola virus enters the body not only through bodily fluids but also through breaks on the skin. The immune system then produces inflammatory cytokines to combat the infection, and as a response to cytokines proteins, rashes occur typically during the 5-7 days of the infection. [9]

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15. Difficulties in swallowing

Ebola can affect the respiratory system and may cause problems in swallowing foods. Also, due to severe cough or sore throat, the windpipe gets inflamed and may cause this problem. The long duration of this symptom may result increase the risk of death of a person.

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Story first published: Tuesday, September 1, 2020, 14:00 [IST]