Since 1976, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has shown up more than twenty times, almost always on the African continent. It shows no signs of stopping. If anything, it’s getting worse, as it spreads beyond western and central Africa and shows its ugly face in Europe and North America. Just how ugly is that face? The death toll speaks to that. We also know that this is a very efficient virus, which can kill within several days of onset of symptoms; symptoms which are unpleasant in the best of circumstances: fever, muscle, head and stomach aches, rash, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and massive external and internal bleeding. But exactly how does Ebola kill you? 

What Does Ebola Do to Your Body?

According to WebMD’s Dr. Michael Smith, Ebola is a “worm-like virus” which operates in a deviant fashion. After entering the host, it adjoins to the cell’s exterior. After invasion, the virus reproduces, and makes the cells burst, causing particles to emanate in every direction. Subsequent to that, Ebola takes over the entire immunological system. The virus utilizes the very cells which are designed to ward off infections in order to get to other areas of the host, including the liver, spleen, kidneys and brain. The firework of particulates starts off an almost unstoppable inflammatory reaction. In turn, the patient presents with sudden flu-like symptoms. In the vascular system, Ebola makes the body clot and bleed simultaneously. It is the bleeding into the dermis which makes a red rash show. Now that the host’s body can no longer clot in the normal fashion, internal bleeding starts to happen. Bleeding also occurs from all orifices: eyes, ears and nose. Entire body systems shut down.

Exsanguination, comorbid with organ failure, is why this is such a deadly virus. Perchance, physicians are able to maintain the body’s systems, via intravenous (IV) solutions, blood transfusions, a breathing machine and general supportive care, chances for the patient’s survival increase dramatically. Ebola moves quickly and can kill in a fortnight. In this outbreak, about 60% of those infected have passed away. Were access to healthcare better, many more would be saved. Citizens of the States have almost no risk of contracting the illness. The U.S. government is going above and beyond to keep Ebola contained.

Why Makes Ebola Virus So Deadly?

To answer the question "how does ebola kill?", the most essential point lies in the lethality of Ebola virus. Ebola is a virus found on one strand of genetic material (RNA): all the protein for the virus can live in that tiny space. Imagine how many Ebola particles can thus be found in one patient’s mucous, urine, blood, fecal matter, sweat, tears, vomit and other bodily fluids when they are ill with Ebola, which is usually five or six days into the infection. To illustrate this point, think of a kitchen teaspoon, now divide it into five parts, fill only one of those five parts, or one-fifth with an infected person’s blood (while imagining for this illustration), that contains ten billion Ebola particles in it, according to the New York Times and other sources. That’s 10,000 times more viral particles than an AIDS patient has in their blood of the HIV virus, without treatment. It is, therefore, extremely easy for these Ebola particles to find an entryway into a person’s body. 

If one has been exposed to a sick or deceased Ebola patient and has a cut or scrape on their own body which is uncovered, that would be a prime entry point. It can get in the body through intercourse (for three months after recovery from Ebola abstinence or use of a condom is necessary) or breastfeeding from mom sick with Ebola to baby. Healthcare workers and family members of Ebola patients come into contact with infected bodily fluids while caring for the patient; if they then touch their nose, mouth or eyes without having gone through thorough decontamination first, they risk transmitting Ebola. Ebola can also live for several hours on dry surfaces, i.e. counters and doorknobs. Patients are not contagious until they are symptomatic.

What Does Ebola Do to The Immune System?

Ebola doesn’t actually kill people; it so weakens its victims' immune systems that they have no protection whatsoever, plus its victims are literally bleeding to death, inside and out.

  • After Ebola has entered the patient’s bloodstream, it interferes with or hijacks the message delivery system of the immune system. This is the pathway normally responsible for alerting the body when bacterium or a virus are invading, which then allows the body to prepare and mount a defense. Because the immune system does not know it has been invaded, the virus has the run of the house.

  • Next, the Ebola virus starts to make tons of copies of itself.  It begins to infect organs. The cells inside the patient’s organs die and the organs rupture, causing massive internal bleeding. By now, the immune system is in overdrive, but it is too little, too late. The immune system cannot destroy the virus, instead it destroys our bodies, starting from the inside, working its way out, in a failed attempt at protecting us.

What Are the Body's Reactions to Ebola?

Your body reacts to exposure to the Ebola virus by attempting to beat the virus, which in turn weakens your body, which leads to the internal and external bleeding that Ebola patients experience in the final stages of Ebola.

Transmission and Signs of Ebola Virus Disease

It uses the vehicle of human touch, to move from person to person. A doctor cares for a patient in an overcrowded, ill-equipped hospital in Guinea and moves too quickly on to the next patient, thereby spreading the virus because he accidentally touched the doorknob of patient A’s room upon departure. It’s actually rather gross: the virus takes up residence in the patient’s body, converts the collagen (which is what the body uses to keep our organs where they belong) to mush, turns the dermis under the top layer of skin into semi-liquid. Clots form in the blood and cause massive internal (from ruptured and leaking blood vessels) and external bleeding which results in death by exsanguination.

Stages of Ebola

In the beginning the patient’s T-cells are destroyed and then they start to exhibit the following:

●         increased body temperature

●         severe headaches

●         joint pain

●         muscle pain

●         decreased appetite

●         sore throat

Later they experience:

●         vomiting blood

●         raised rash

●         bleeding from eyes, nose and mouth

●         bloody diarrhea

●         liver failure

●         circulatory system failure


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