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A Current Review of Ebola Virus: Pathogenesis, Clinical Presentation, and Diagnostic Assessment


Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is an acute viral syndrome that presents with fever and an ensuing bleeding diathesis that is marked by high mortality in human and nonhuman primates. Fatality rates are between 50% and 100%. Due to its lethal nature, this filovirus is classified as a biological class 4 pathogen. The natural reservoir of the virus is unknown. As a result, little is understood about how Ebola virus is transmitted or how it replicates in its host. Although the primary source of infection is unknown, the epidemiologic mode of transmission is well defined. A variety of tests have proven to be specific and useful for Ebola virus identification. There is no FDA-approved antiviral treatment for EHF. Incubation ranges from 2 to 21 days. Patients who are able to mount an immune response to the virus will begin to recover in 7 to 10 days and start a period of prolonged convalescence. Supportive management of infected patients is the primary method of treatment, with particular attention to maintenance of hydration, circulatory volume, blood pressure, and the provision of supplemental oxygen. Since there is no specific treatment outside of supportive management and palliative care, containment of this potentially lethal virus is paramount. In almost all outbreaks of EHF, the fatality rate among health care workers with documented infections was higher than that of non-health care workers.

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