News & Information About Ebola

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Facts, Information and General Knowledge about Ebola

List of Hemorrhagic Fevers

Ebola is not the only virus known to cause hemorrhagic fever and it is certainly not the most common. This page serves to list many of the common viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF) in a table with brief descriptions for reference. The diseases listed are those commonly found in humans and excludes those which effect animals such as rabbit hemorrhagic disease.

All forms of VHF share similar symptoms including generalized flu-like symptoms in the early stages of infection with rapid progression into the defining symptoms. The general symptoms of VHF related disease include high fever, bleeding disorders, shock and in many cases results in death. Five families of RNA viruses are considered responsible for all VHF cases with the most recent identified in 2012. The viral families are Arenaviridae, Bunyaviridae, Filoviridae (Ebola), Flaviviridae and Rhabdoviridae.

Name Description
Viral hemorrhagic fever Generic terms for typically life threatening fevers including Ebola and Marburg
Argentine hemorrhagic fever Caused by an arenavirus carried by corn mice
Bolivian hemorrhagic fever Caused by the Machupo virus with mortality rates between 5 and 30%
Brazilian hemorrhagic fever The Sabiá virus is responsible for the fever
Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever Spread by a Tick-borne Virus
Kyasanur forest disease Caused by Tick-borne virus from the same family as yellow fever
Lassa fever Caused by the Lassa Virus
Marburg virus disease The Marburg virus is a close relative of Ebola
Omsk hemorrhagic fever Found in Siberia caused by a Flavivirus
Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever Caused by the Guanarito virus

As you can see there are several known hemorrhagic fevers and although Ebola gets highlighted every few years during an outbreak it is certainly not the only virus to consider when a fever presents itself in a patient. Many of the diseases belonging to this category are endemic to certain areas around the world and all share the symptoms noted in late stage Ebola infections.

PPE Kit List & DIY Alternatives

Personal Protection Equipment is key to preventing the spread of Ebola as healthcare workers and others rely on it to prevent being infected. If in an emergency situation you need to be in contact with an Ebola patient you may need to have an understanding of the equipment used as well as more readily available substitutes.

The below image shows a standard PPE suit but an Ebola suit requires the face, eyes, mouth and feet to be covered in addition to the basic covering depicted in the image. Many of the components of an Ebola PPE suit can be replaced with household equipment in an extreme emergency if required.

Standard PPE Suit

By Protectepi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The principal of Ebola PPE is to seal your body off from exposure as much as possible while still remaining reasonably mobile. A full PPE suit is incredibly difficult to wear for long periods of time and the longer a health worker is in PPE the higher the chance for mistakes becomes. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are very real risks while donning protective suits.

List of Equipment & Reasonable Alternatives.

Safety Goggles/Face Shield

The eyes need to be protected from possible contact with the virus at all times. A pair of safety goggles and or a face shield should provide sufficient protection in most instances. Medical safety goggles are very cheap however if needed you can replace them with hardware store goggles. A medical face shield may also be replaced with a hardware store face shield.


The coverall and apron provide protection for the body area particularly from contact with bodily fluids. Disposable aprons and coveralls are often used by health care workers. A common replacement can be made with refuse bags. It is critical to maximize the the coverage and tape up any holes with duct tape or another strong adhesive tape.

Gloves/Feet Coverings

Health care workers wear two pairs of gloves and seal the coverall to the gloves with medical tape or duct tape. A pair of kitchen gloves could be used a reasonable alternative.

N95 Mask/Respirator

There is no confirmation that Ebola is airborne and as such it is generally sufficient to wear at least an N95 mask to protect against aerosol particles. The primary purpose of the mask is to protect the mouth from contact with the virus. N95 equivalent masks may be available at your local hardware store. In extreme situations a folded scarf or piece of cloth may provide limited protection.


HCW’s are sprayed down by another worker before and during the suit removal process. A bleach solution can be mixed at home to provide a suitable cleaning mixture. A mixture containing 3 parts of water to 1 part of beach is known to kill the Ebola virus within minutes.

Golden Rules

  • Do not touch your face
  • Do not wear a PPE suit for extended periods of time
  • Be careful when removing any equipment to avoid contact with the equipment
  • Dispose of any materials that may have had contact with the virus
  • If for any reason you must clean the equipment do so with a bleach mixture of at least 1:3.
  • Do not leave any part of your body exposed if possible.
  • Beware of bodily fluids at all times.
  • Leave the handling of Ebola and its victims to trained experts where possible.

Possibly Useful Equipment

You may have some helpful equipment nearby without realizing it.

  • UV Lights can kill viruses, you may have a “black light” in the house or if you work in a shop the fake money detector light is usually UV.
  • Garden pesticide sprayers can be used to spray a bleach or chlorine mixture. Remember to wash it well before and after use.
  • Safety goggles and face shields are often bundled with power tools.

Always remember that by coming into contact with an Ebola patient you are placing yourself at risk of infection. Health workers are often infected while adhering to strict standards and as such contact is not recommended.

1995 Outbreak Summary

315 cases with 254 deaths occurred in 1995 when Ebola broke out in the Kitwit area of the Democratic Republic of Congo which was known as Zaire at the time.  The outbreak was one of the largest since the first documented outbreak in 1976 when Zaire witnessed 318 cases of the virus.

The source of infection was traced to a single index patient who fell ill on the 6th of January 1995 and died in a local hospital on the 13th of the same month. This resulted in direct infections of his family members and a secondary wave of at least 10 infections in his extended family. It is assumed that the index patient contracted the infection from a natural reservoir since no prior contact with an Ebola carrier was found.

Several deaths occurred in the initial village and nearby villages where the cause of death was noted as dysentery. It is thought that several of these cases were in fact the result of the virus but were not recognized as such until much later in May when it was confirmed. It is very likely that at least a portion of these cases formed part of the initial transmission chain for the outbreak.

May 1995 saw the involvement of international partners and health organizations in an effort to contain the outbreak. The last case was documented in June 1995 however at least one asymptomatic case appears to have occurred after the last reported case. Officials attributed the successful containment to patient isolation, contact tracing and education. The outbreak occurred 21 years after the first documented outbreak raising significant awareness about the disease and the potential for the virus to have a widespread impact beyond the original scope of understanding. The similarity in case counts and mortality rates between the two outbreaks confirmed that the virus remained a serious threat.

Origin of Ebola

The Ebola Virus was first documented in 1976 when two outbreaks occurred in Sudan (now Sudan and South Sudan) and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The virus was named after the Ebola river in Zaire which runs nearby the Yambuku village which suffered the second ever outbreak of the virus. Ebola is a member of the Filoviridae family of viruses and is poorly documented and understood when compared to more common diseases.

Three common strains of Ebola were observed during earlier outbreaks namely Sudan, Zaire and Reston. The Reston strain is of particular interest being the only strain to exhibit fully airborne traits. Later, the Côte d’Ivoire strain was discovered when a ethologist infected herself while performing a necropsy on a chimpanzee in 1994. The 2014 Ebola outbreak was caused by the Zaire strain of Ebola. The virus is Zoonotic and usually found in animal reservoirs with human infections resulting from accidental infection in laboratories or the consumption of incorrectly prepared “bush meat”.

The first known Filovirus was Marburg which was discovered in 1967 during an outbreak in West Germany (now Germany). Marburg is similar to Ebola and outbreaks are rare. Uganda has a history of Marburg outbreaks which are typically contained rapidly through isolation and contact tracing. It is generally thought that Filoviridae have existed for thousands of years based on DNA evidence. Several ancient viruses share genetic material with modern examples of the virus family and some theories have been put forward suggesting that the “Plague of Athens” and the “Black Death” may have resulted from a Filovirus similar to Ebola.

Several conspiracy theories have suggested that Ebola may have been manufactured for use as a bio weapon. There is very little evidence to support such claims. After the discovery of Marburg and Ebola several documents have been declassified evidencing attempts to weaponize the virus however no success has been documented.

Plague VS Ebola

The plague is caused by a bacteria known as Yersinia pestis which is typically transmitted to humans by fleas. Y. pestis is responsible for several types of plague with at least one capable of aerosol transmission. The Plague is often referred to as the Bubonic Plague which has become synonymous for all common forms of plague.

Bubonic Plague

By Photo Credit= Content Providers= CDC/ Courtesy of Larry Stauffer, Oregon State Public Health LaboratoryRsabbatini at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Black Death

The “Black Death” is frequently attributed to a form of plague most commonly Bubonic Plague. The Black death lasted from 1346 to 1353 and resulted in as many as 200 million deaths with nearly a third being attributed to Bubonic Plague according to some sources. Ebola made an appearance as a possible “Black Death” suspect in 2001 when it was suggested that the Black Death could have been caused by a Filovirus given that it spread far quicker than expected. The “Black Death” is also documented to have a significantly long incubation time which has been observed in both the Ebola and Marburg outbreaks. A large amount of the evidence which blamed the “Black Death” on the plague results from DNA confirmations that Yersinia pestis was present in samples of confirmed victim remains.

Table Comparing Ebola to the Plague

Trait Ebola Virus Plague (Yersinia pestis)
R 0 2.2 Mean 1.3 (Possibly Higher when Airborne)
Generation Time 5 (CDC), 11 (WHO) 3-6
Mortality Rate 25-90% / ~70% 2014 Outbreak 11% with Treatment
Airborne No, Possible Aerosol Limited, Aerosol
Waterborne No Yes
Primary Transmission Bodily Fluids (Almost All) Flea Bites, Aerosol
Vaccine In Trials Yes, rarely used
Primary Hosts Humans, Primates, Bats Mammals, Rodents
Type RNA Virus Bacteria
Annual Deaths Very Low Prior to 2014 Less than 100 Confirmed
Largest known Outbreak 2013/14 West Africa Black Death (75-200 million deaths)
First Isolated 1976 1894
Last Pandemic Never Recorded  Active until 1959
Patient Isolation Required Recommended
Contact Tracing Required Recommended
Possible Age Thousands of Years Thousands of Years

The First Bio-Weapon

The plague is very likely the first known example of a biological weapon in warfare. In 1347 victims of the plague were catapulted into the city of Caffa (modern day Feodosia) leading to an outbreak. One theory is that the sufferers fled to Europe taking the plague with them. Japan used a similar approach against China during the second world war when contaminated rice and wheat dropped from an airplane resulted in a outbreak causing 121 deaths.

Miasma Theory

The idea that several diseases including the plague were caused by “bad air” is called the Miasma Theory. Upon the discovery of “germs” including bacteria and viruses the theory was replaced by the Germ theory of disease.  It was thought that the vapor or fumes from decaying organic matter could cause disease. Plague Doctors were known for their beak like breathing apparatus which attempted to purify the poisonous air.


Plague is treated with antibiotics in the modern world and the prognosis is generally good if a patient seeks medical attention at the first sign of symptoms. Nostradamus famously treated plague sufferers with rose hips which provide a rich source of Vitamin C.

The plague is arguably one of the most infamous diseases and the “Black Death” is a well known pandemic across the world. Many modern medical practices are routed in the treatment of the plague including the concept of isolation and the purification of air via a respirator. The approaches taken during plague outbreaks were often ineffective but the concepts have found relevance in modern medicine.


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