How is the Ebola virus spread? Discover the different forms of contagion that exist against this infectious virus.
Ebola is an acute viral infectious disease, which is characterized especially by its very high lethality (which can reach 90%), for not having a preventive vaccine that helps prevent contagion, and for not having a cure. . . In other words, the medical treatments that exist to date are palliative, and seek to maintain the patient’s life until their immune system is capable of fighting the virus on its own and creating enough antibodies to do so.
Although the first recorded outbreaks took place in 1976, when there were two simultaneous outbreaks in Zara (Sudan) and near the Ebola River (Democratic Republic of the Congo), and new cases are reported in Africa every year, it was in December of last year 2013 when a new and deadly outbreak was registered, which as of October 10, 2014 has caused the death of 3,879 people, according to the latest data made public by the World Health Organization.
Since there is no vaccine that prevents contagion, it is extremely important for the entire population to know how Ebola is spread, and how it is transmitted, in order to prevent it.
How is Ebola spread?
Among humans, the Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with blood, other fluids (such as vomit) and bodily secretions from an infected person already showing symptoms of the disease, as well as from deceased people already infected. In fact, patients who die of Ebola can continue to transmit the disease, an incident that can occur during the burial process.
Among the bodily secretions that can transmit the virus, we can highlight above all saliva, urine, vaginal fluids, semen or feces. If contagion occurs by these means, we are faced with what is medically known as direct contact.
On the other hand, it is known that the Ebola virus can remain in the semen of cured men for up to three months.
Ebola infection can also occur from being in contact with objects that have already been contaminated with the infected secretions of the infected patient. Among these objects we can find toothbrushes, used needles, dirty bedding or clothing. It would be an indirect contact.
And from animals to humans? How is it spread?
The contagion from animals to humans can also occur, in the same way that it occurs between people: by direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of certain wild animals, such as monkeys, bats (especially the fruit bat, of the family Pteropodidae) and jungle antelopes.
How does contagion occur?
We must bear in mind that the Ebola virus is not transmitted by water or by air.
That is, it only passes from person to person through direct contact with any body fluid of the infected subject or individual, or of the infected animal. For this reason, most cases occur among relatives or health personnel who have treated the patient affected by Ebola.
Although it is not so easy for one person to transmit the Ebola virus to another precisely because it is not transmitted through the air and the greatest risk of contagion occurs when the patient already has symptoms, very few virus particles are needed to produce the virus. Disease.
Once in the body of the person who is not sick but infected, the virus infects the capillary endothelium and alters a type of cell known as “endothelial”, which lines the inner surface of blood vessels, in addition to immune cells. When the blood vessels are damaged, the platelets are not able to coagulate, which is why those affected succumb to hemorrhagic ‘shock’, which ultimately leads to a very serious loss of blood.
To explain it simply, the virus “grabs” the outside of the human cell to finally penetrate inside. Once it is inside it reproduces very quickly, being able to reproduce in several thousand. That is, they attack other cells and, in turn, create new viruses, so that the infection spreads throughout the body.
Can the Ebola virus be spread through the air?
As many epidemiologists and medical specialists state, although at the moment contagion only occurs from direct contact with the infected person, there would be some possibility that in the future it could be transmitted through the air, given that it is a virus that it constantly mutates, adapting itself to ensure its survival and proliferation.
This means that the virus may be able to change its degree of lethality in humans, the time it takes to cause the disease, its mode of transmission and its susceptibility to drugs.