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Transmission, symptoms, treatment: understanding the Ebola virus

FOCUS - With its unprecedented scale and because of the dispersion of foci of infection, epidemic hemorrhagic fever worries the international community.

When the virus appear?

The discovery of the virus dates back to 1976, when the first recorded outbreak in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo in a near Ebola, the disease got its name River area. He then hit 318 people and killed 280. Its origin is debated to this day. A widely accepted hypothesis, some species of bats living in the tropical forests of Central Africa and West Africa, are the natural hosts of Ebola. Other animals also participate in the transmission cycle. Five viral species have been identified since then, but both are responsible for the vast majority of contamination: the Zaire strain - one mutation now raging - and the Sudan strain.

Which countries are involved?Ebola Virus Prevention

Ebola comes sporadically and at irregular intervals. The latest resurgence starting date of the year. The outbreak was first reported in Forest Guinea before spreading in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Until recently, the virus raged mainly in central and eastern Africa. From 1976 to 2012, in addition to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, three other countries had been affected by serious epidemics: Gabon, Uganda and Congo. Together, they have killed more than 2,200 people in forty years, much less than the AIDS virus or malaria. The fatality rate is itself much higher: it varies from 25% to 90%, depending on the strain. According to WHO, it currently stands at 54%.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of infection with Ebola are impressive: internal and external bleeding, mucosal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea, often accompanied by blood. Poorly perfused, organs eventually become necrotic, and the skin soften and tear. The current epidemic in West Africa nevertheless induces slightly different symptoms. "Vomiting and diarrhea are predominant in this epidemic, says Herve Raoul, director of the Inserm-P4 laboratory in Lyon. Observed less profuse bleeding, and it would be more correct to speak this time of infection with Ebola virus, not hemorrhagic fever. "

How is the virus spread?

Transmission between humans is the main driver of the epidemic. "Transmission occurs through contact with body fluids of an infected person, adds Herve Raoul. Just as blood, secretions or feces come into contact with mucous membranes or wounds so that the infection spreads to a new host. "The contamination is thus most often among relatives or caregivers. But the people who died are contagious and a physical contact with a corpse is dangerous. Funeral rites and play a very important role in the transmission of the disease.

How the epidemic is it treated?

Currently, no treatment exists. In hospitals and treatment camps, caregivers simply help the body fight infection. "We unfortunately can not do much to treat disease and the symptoms, says Geraldine Bégué. We often simply hydrate patients intravenously and isolate them from the rest of the population to avoid contagion. "Molecules and vaccines have already yielded some results on animals, but no results on humans n 'is still available. A serum called ZMapp, the American firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical, administered experimentally in two American patients. And the United States has partially lifted restrictions on another experimental treatment Tekmir of Canadian society, but placing it on the market could take several months.

Why this new epidemic she worried?

The actors of this health crisis are likely to worry about the latter resurgence of the virus. WHO estimates Ebola should continue to spread for several months. However, it is already the worst epidemic in the history of this disease since its discovery and the number of victims grows exponentially. Especially as its dispersion and multiplication of homes make it difficult to curb the phenomenon. Many experts also worry that for the first time the disease thrive in urban areas. The work of health personnel is also complicated by the suspicion of the local population vis-à-vis Western caregivers.

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