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Why the Appalling Ebola symptoms scare people so much

<img src="ebola.jpg" alt="Ebola" width="300" height="194">

Many more actually infected with the Ebola Virus

When the World Health Organization declared the Ebola virus to be a worldwide emergency in August 2014 millions of people took note. They suddenly realized that it is not only a few small countries in Africa that are at risk. As a result, stringent travelling restrictions and exhaustive preventive measures were put in place. To date, more than 14 000 people have been affected, but experts say the real figures may be much higher.

One of the reasons why the virus is causing so much fear and even panic is the fact that the mortality rate is so high (25 – 90%, depending on case specifics). The symptoms of Ebola are horrifying. At first, patients experience symptoms much like those caused by influenza. They feel tired, develop a fever greater than 38 degrees, headaches, pain in the joints and muscles and a sore throat. Vomiting, diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain follow quickly. The next phase causes severe chest pain, breathing difficulties and swelling. Many patients become confused at this stage. In approximately half the cases patients develop a severe rash.

Horrible as these symptoms are, worse is to follow. After five days external bleeding may occur. All patients show decreased blood clotting. Patients vomit and cough up blood and there is blood in the faeces. Bleeding may even occur into the whites of the eyes and at all sites where needles were used. Those patients that die normally do so no later than sixteen days after the symptoms first appear. However, death can also occur as early as six days after the onset of the disease. The final cause of death is normally abnormally low blood pressure that is caused by fluid losses.

Patients that survive Ebola normally start to recover between seven and fourteen days after experiencing the symptoms for the first time. Recovery is slow and survivors will often experience pain in the joints for the rest of their lives. They may also suffer from ongoing inflammation of the liver and their hearing is often affected permanently.