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10 reasons that make the Ebola virus deadly for humans

Why is the Ebola virus killing thousands within a short span of time? Find out here

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Updated : August 20, 2014 4:25 PM IST

ebolaVarious infectious diseases like tuberculosis, AIDS and dengue have killed millions of people all over the world but what distinguishes Ebola from others, is that is highly mysterious. Here's are some interesting facts about the Ebola virus that make it so deadly.

It can kill within seven days: Unlike other viruses (like HIV) that can remain dormant in a person for years without causing the disease, Ebola violently multiplies until the viral particles are amplified to about 100 million viral particles in a droplet of blood. Further, without resting in a dormant stage the virus kills the host to find a new one. The fatality rate of the disease is 60 percent.

There is no vaccine or treatment available: What makes this virus deadly is the fact that researchers have not been able to find an effective treatment or preventive technique to combat the virus and the spread of the disease. The experimental drug Zmapp has shown promising results but the safety and efficacy of the drug are to be evaluated. So, as of now, neither do we have an effective form of therapy nor do we have a vaccine to prevent the disease.

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Attacks every part of the human body: Ebola only needs a host cell that can help it produce multiple copies of itself. What worsens the condition is the fact that the virus does not need a specific type of cell to multiply (unlike other deadly diseases). According to studies, except for skeletal muscles and bones, the virus is known to infect every part of the human body. Connective tissues, the ones that hold your internal organs in place, are primary targets of the virus.

Disrupts your immune system: Viral proteins present on the outer surface of the Ebola virus are what destroy the immune system. VP35, one of those proteins, interferes with the production of some important components of the human immune system, like interferons. Another protein traps the white blood cells inside the circulatory system by limiting their movement. As a response to the virus, whatever molecules the immune cells release are used by the virus to devastate the vascular system and activate blood clot formation.

We don't know where it came from: First of all, scientists have not been able to identify the original reservoir of the virus yet. Bats have been the suspected source but the results are inconclusive. Since a major part of its life cycle remains a mystery, the threat of its recurring outbreak will persist.

We don't know all the different ways it can spread: The Ebola virus certainly spreads through direct contact with infectious body fluids and secretions including blood, semen, stool, mucus, saliva and sweat. But there is a possibility that it could spread through other modes, increasing the chances of the disease spreading.

The virus manipulates your immune system: Once the virus enters the body, it attacks your immune cells, namely macrophages and monocytes. The immune cells get fooled and release large amounts cytokines that instead facilitate the entry of the virus into endothelial cells easily. These cytokines alarm other immune cells to reach the site of infection, exposing them to the virus. While the immune system is still being attacked by the virus, some viral particles that reach the liver start destroying the liver cells to ensures that cell signals are not cleared from the bloodstream.

Multiplies rapidly: Once inside the body, the virus's genetic material (single-stranded RNA) begins to multiply rapidly into the host cell. The genetic material is translated to produce viral proteins that form an outer covering of the viral particles protecting its genetic material.

Releases hundreds of viruses at a time: Within no time, the infected cells becomes packed with blocks or crystals of viral particles. They move towards the cell wall of the infected cell and finally burst the cell releasing hundreds of new viral particles that travel through the blood, attacking healthy cells.

Destabilises the vascular system: When the new virions are on their way outside the infected host cell, the host cell detaches from its neighbouring cell and loses it contact with the membrane it is rested upon. The viral particles ultimately leave the cell destabilised, causing massive blood loss or hemorrhage.

Read Ebola virus causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention

Take this 60-second Ebola quiz and save your life!

Photo source: Getty images


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