Ebolaviruses are pathogenic agents associated with a severe, potentially fatal, systemic disease in man and great apes. Four species of ebolaviruses have been identified in west or equatorial Africa. Once the more virulent forms enter the human population, transmission occurs primarily through contact with infected body fluids and can result in major epidemics in under-resourced settings. These viruses cause a disease characterised by systemic viral replication, immune suppression, abnormal inflammatory responses, major fluid and electrolyte losses, and high mortality. Despite recent progress on vaccines, and with no licensed prophylaxis or treatment available, case management is essentially supportive with management of severe multiple organ failure resulting from immune-mediated cell damage. The 2013–16 outbreak was classified by WHO as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which drew attention to the challenges of diseases caused by infections with ebolaviruses and questioned scientific, clinical, and societal preparation to handle future epidemics.

Credit: CDC

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