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Ebola virus signs and symptoms you need to watch out for!

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Updated : August 21, 2014 2:51 PM IST

Ebola symptomsAmidst the rising Ebola death toll in West Africa and the fear spreading throughout the world, after it being declared an international emergency, what we all should realise is that panicking will not help. Instead, educate yourself about the disease as much as you can. Creating awareness about the disease is the first step towards preventing it. Here's a detailed account on early and late symptoms of Ebola.

Symptoms of Ebola take 2-21 days to develop. In this incubation period or the time between exposure to the virus and development of the disease, the virus attacks the immunity. After a cascade of events and destruction of immune cells at the site of infection, the following symptoms start developing.

Early symptoms of Ebola

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Fever: Increase in body temperature is the first defence mechanism that the body uses to kill any foreign particle invading the body. When Ebola infects the body, it causes a release of various compounds like cytokines and histamines that pass on the signals of increasing body temperature. In fact, Ebola virus disease is also called the Ebola haemorrhagic fever, where the temperature can go above 38.6 C or 101.5 F.

Headache: It is the most common symptom of Ebola infection after fever, present in almost 96 percent of the cases. Nausea and headache along with fever present a typical case of common cold and flu. At this stage, the symptoms can be confused with other common infections.

Stomach pain: A few viral particles invade the liver and starts destroying the hepatocytes. New virions start damaging the intestinal cells causing abdominal pain.

Drop in blood pressure: The cytokines and histamines released by the immune cells, soon after the entry of the virus in the body, increases the permeability of the cells lining the blood vessels. This causes leakage of water from the blood into the surrounding tissues and a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Late symptoms of Ebola

Sore throat: This symptom may take some time to develop and may not occur in all people infected with the virus. It starts with a scratchy, dry or itchy feeling in the throat and can even end with lesions in the throat filled with the virus.

Jaundice: When the virus attacks the liver cells, it causes leakage of cell contents into the blood stream. Increased level of liver proteins in the blood may cause yellowing of skin and eyes or jaundice in few cases.

Loss of appetite: Increased body temperature, weakness and attack on the intestinal endothelial cells all contribute to anorexia and loss of appetite as the virus multiplies rapidly inside the body.

Skin rashes: Usually, on the 5th day of the illness, mild skin rashes may develop. These rashes are short-lived but if the patient lives long enough, the rashes start peeling, similar to sunburn. It may even start bleeding if the virus is present in large numbers under the skin surface.

Bleeding: Severe damage to the blood vessels can cause internal bleeding. The viral load may increase to an extent that the person may start bleeding from all openings including pores of the skin.

Ultimately, due to clotting and bleeding, when the blood fails to reach different parts of the body, multiple organ failure may occur, resulting in death.

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

Also read: Ebola virus causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention

Photo source: Getty images

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Smith TC. Ebola Deadly Diseases and Epidemics Series.Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publications; 2005. 104 p.

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