Ebola virus disease, or simply Ebola, is a rare and deadly illness caused by infection from a strain of the Ebola virus. It is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of a person already showing symptoms. Ebola is not spread through the air, water, food, or mosquitoes. Symptoms most often appear within a week or 10 days, but they may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Early symptoms can include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, and weakness, which often are followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and rash, along with decreased liver and kidney function. If death occurs, it often follows 6-16 days after symptoms appear and typically is due to low blood pressure caused by fluid loss.

Although the exact origin of the virus is not known, scientists believe that a person first becomes infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate (apes and monkeys). The disease had been confined to certain areas of Africa until September 2014, when the virus first appeared in the United States after an infected man traveled from Africa to Texas, where it spread to several health care workers. Recovery from Ebola depends on excellent medical care and the patient’s immune system, but the overall mortality rate is approximately 50 percent. Those who recover no longer can spread the disease, and they develop antibodies that last at least 10 years.

UAB maintains an active and well-prepared infectious disease program, and our Emergency Management Committee has adopted Ebola isolation and triage procedures with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our infectious disease specialists are equipped with the education, research, training, and experience to address both existing and emerging diseases. In 2008, UAB and the Southern Research Institute collaborated to create the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance, which has been working to develop new drug therapies for a number of viruses. Even more recently, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases approved a five-year, $35 million grant to the UAB School of Medicine, which is being used to establish the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center (AD3C). The AD3C is focusing on viral families that are responsible for diseases such as West Nile virus, SARS, MERS, chikungunya and dengue fever. In addition, the UAB Travelers’ Clinic offers preventative treatments for overseas travelers.

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