What is the Ebola virus and how is it spread?

Canadian Living

What is the Ebola virus and how is it spread?

With the news that the first Ebola case has now been diagnosed on American soil, our southern neighbour, many are concerned about the spread of the Ebola virus to Canada. Thousands of people in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria have already been infected and so far around 3,000 have died. There's no doubt there will be long-lasting affects to the whole continent. (Learn more about the virus and its effects in this  CBC account of orphaned children affected by Ebola.) Ebola virus

Photography courtesy of FlickrCC/NIAID

To find out more about the disease we looked to the World Health Organization, who are working to control the disease and its spread. The facts on the Ebola virus:
  • The Ebola virus originally appeared in 1976.
  • Ebola is spread from human-to-human transmission through direct contact like broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (like bedding, clothing) contaminated with bodily fluids, according to the WHO.
  • Fatality from the Ebola virus is currently at 50 percent.
  • There is no licensed Ebola vaccine at the moment but there are candidates undergoing trials (some of which come from Canadian labs).
  • The incubation period is 2 to 21 days during which people who are potentially infected should be isolated.
  • The first symptoms are muscle pain, fever, fatigue, headache and a sore throat. Then patients begin to from suffer vomiting, diarrhea, symptoms of impaired liver and kidney function, a rash and potentially internal and external bleeding.
  • Diagnosis takes place at a lab through a variety of tests because the symptoms could be a variety of other illnesses common in West Africa like malaria, etc.
  According to the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, there's no reason to be concerned here at the moment. "The Public Health Agency of Canada is aware of the individual with Ebola in the United States. The information we have to date is that the individual did not travel through Canada and was not symptomatic, and therefore not contagious, during their travel to the United States." And this: "Canada is well prepared with a number of systems in place to identify and prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases like Ebola, such as working closely with our international partners to gather and assess information and administering the Quarantine Act at all points of entry into Canada." Click here for more information from the Public Health Agency of Canada for the latest updates.


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What is the Ebola virus and how is it spread?