How Ebola Works

Detection, Treatment and Prevention of Ebola
A 43-year-old physician's assistant takes part in a briefing before becoming the first person to be injected in the 205 Ebola vaccine trials launched in Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore/Getty Images

Detection of Ebola has been a difficult problem, especially before an outbreak is known to have started. The early symptoms are often confused with other diseases. It can take up to three days after the onset of symptoms for the virus to reach levels that can be detected [source: CDC].

The most accurate tests for Ebola are those that use specialized equipment that is hard to take into the remote locations where the virus is most prevalent.

In 2017, however, researchers reported a breakthrough in Ebola diagnosis — a test using a device called the Quantitative, Rapid Identification (QuRapID) platform, which freezes blood cells to spill their contents and mixes them with a dye that helps to spot the virus. As described in a 2017 article in The Conversation, the entire process reportedly takes 70 minutes to provide a result [source: Moschos].

Once a patient has been diagnosed with Ebola, there are some measures health care workers can take that will improve the person's chance of survival. The standard treatment involves providing fluids and electrolytes intravenously, as well as oxygen therapy and medication to support blood pressure and reduce vomiting and diarrhea. While people who recover from Ebola develop antibodies to the disease, it's not known whether those make them immune to catching it again. Survivors may suffer lasting health problems, such as difficulties with their joints and vision problems [source: CDC].

But a vaccine recently developed by pharmaceutical maker Merck may at last provide a way to stop Ebola. The vaccine was first tested in late 2015, toward the end of an Ebola outbreak in west Africa, and of the 7,500 people who received it, not a single one developed the disease. In May 2018, with a new outbreak raging in the Congo, National Public Radio reported that thousands of doses had been shipped there, to be used in a vaccination effort coordinated by the World Health Organization [source: Aizenman].

Last editorial update on May 21, 2018 05:13:57 pm.

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