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Written for:
Senior Composition
January 12, 1999

The Ebola Virus
By: Nick Rudat

The Ebola virus is, as some professionals would say, the scariest virus known to man. This report will cover the types of Ebola, it’s sister virus, Marburg, and the amount of time it takes for them to terminate their host. It will explain, in detail, the effects of Ebola on the human body. Even though the origin of the virus is unknown the locations in which Ebola is thought to reside will be discussed.


The Ebola virus is actually a term for a small group of viruses classified together as filoviruses, which means "threadlike virus," because of the way they kill the host, and the types of proteins contained in the virus. They are Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Ivory Coast, Ebola Reston, and the sister virus Marburg. Ebola Zaire is the more deadly of the subtypes. It has a fatality rate of nine out of ten or 90% and it kills in four to six days. Ebola Sudan and Ebola Ivory Coast are just as deadly but not quite as terrible as Ebola Zaire. They have a fatality rate of about 80% and kill in six to ten days (Genetech.)

Ebola Reston is the least worrisome of the group. It seems only to be infectious to monkeys. There have been incidents where people had been exposed to the virus. One man, cleaning out cages of infected and dying monkeys, got monkey blood in his eyes while the monkey was crashing. Another man who was dissecting a monkey, which had died from the Ebola Reston virus, accidentally cut his thumb open with a bloody scalpel. He was kept in quarantine for nearly a month yet did not breakout with any of the symptoms. Both men had blood samples taken, which showed Ebola Reston throughout their bodies. Nobody is known to have died from the virus or has shown any signs of sickness after exposure. However, Ebola Reston is handled in Level 4 Biohazard conditions only (Investigation in Texas.) Richard Preston describes level 4 conditions simply. Level 4 Biohazard conditions consist of wearing a 'Space Suit' with an internal oxygen supply, and being very careful around sharp objects. A tear or rip in the suit could be the end of a persons life.

Then there is, what is believed to be, the oldest of them all, Marburg. Marburg is called a sister virus because, even though Ebola Sudan, Ivory Cost and Reston are sub types of Ebola Zaire, Marburg is not, nor does it have any subtypes. Yet it is still classified as a Filoviridae. Marburg is the mildest of the group, infectious to humans, but still considered highly lethal, because it kills one out of four people and takes seven to fourteen days to do so (Courbot.) None of the Filoviruses are known to be airborne. However, they are believed capable of limited survival in the air. The virus can survive in the saliva of an infected person. In theory, if that person were to spit, sneeze, or cough the droplets in the air could carry the virus into your mouth and eyes, although it has never been proved. The virus is able to jump from host to host if an infected substance were to seep through a pore or small rip in the skin. The Ebola virus is so small that a period on this page could contain about nine million virus particles (Preston.)

The Ebola virus is made up of seven proteins, three of which we know very little about and four of which we know nothing about. The proteins somehow work together to breakdown, disintegrate, liquefy, and transform every cell and tissue in the human body, except for bone, into the Ebola virus itself. The object of a virus is not to kill the host it lives in, but to live off the host, multiply. Ebola not only kills the person it infects, but gets very close to turning that person into pure virus particles. But the end result is nothing but a clump of half liquefied flesh (General Information.)


If a person were infected with Ebola Zaire they would normally have four to six days to live. The headache begins on about the third day after exposure. The victim is bothered by a throbbing behind the eyes and temples, that spreads throughout the head. The pain will not go away with Aspirin or Tylenol. It then begins to spread down the back (Preston.)

The next day the person becomes nauseated, spikes a fever close to 110 degrees, and begins to vomit. The vomiting becomes intense turning in to dry heaves. At about this time the victim becomes strangely passive. The face losses all appearance of life and is set into an expressionless mask , with fixed eyeballs that just stare at nothing. The eyelids are slightly droopy, making it look as if the eyes are ready to pop out of their head and are half closed at the same time (Preston.)

The eyes soon seem frozen in place and turn a bright red. The skin on the face turns a light shade of yellow with brilliant red star like spots all over. The person begins to look like a zombie, and is freighting to look at. The personality changes and the person becomes sullen, resentful, and angry. Meanwhile the memory is slowly wiped away. They are not delirious for they can answer questions, but they do not seem to know where they are of what has happened to them (Preston.)

A few hours later it gets worse. A sickness passes over the victim. An uncontrollable illness that causes vomiting again. The vomit is now blood mixed with tarry black specks, as if the person had been chewing coffee grounds. The eyes are as red as rubies and the face is an expressionless mask of bruises. The star like spots are called petechiae, which are hemorrhages under the skin, and have expanded and turned into bruises. The muscles in the face have started to droop because the connective tissue is dissolving. The face appears to hang from the underlying bone as if it is trying to disconnect from the skull (Preston.)

The vomit continues endlessly even after the stomach should have been empty. Now a substance called Vomito Negro, or "Black Vomit," is being thrown up. The vomit is not really black. It is actually a speckled liquid of two colors, red and black, a stew of tarry granules mixed with fresh red arterial blood. It is a hemorrhage in the stomach. Now the victim begins to smell like a slaughter house. The black vomit is loaded with virus and is highly infective, or lethally hot (Henahan.)

When the Ebola virus multiplies in a host it can saturate the entire body with virus particles from the brain to the skin. Military experts call this process, “extreme amplification.” By the time an extreme amplification has peeked a single drop of the infected blood may contain one hundred million virus particles. During this process the body is partially transformed into virus particles. In other words, "The host is possessed by a life form that is attempting to convert the host into itself." Says Sanchez, a military doctor. The transformation is not completely successful however. The end result is a great deal of liquefying flesh mixed with virus, kind of a biological accident. The black vomit is a sign of extreme amplification (Preston.)

After a while the victim begins to hold himself ridged as if any movement would rupture something inside them. The blood is beginning to clot up, the bloodstream is throwing clots and they are lodging everywhere. The liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, hands, feet, and head are being jammed with clotted blood. The intestinal muscles begin to die from being cut off to the blood supply and start to go slack. The person, however, is seemingly unaware of the pain now, because blood clots lodged in the brain are cutting off blood flow (Preston.)

Their personality is wiped away due to the brain damage. This process is called depersonalization, in which the liveliness and details of character vanish. Tiny spots of the brain begin to liquefy and damage the higher functions and consciousness first. This leaves, what specialists refer to as, “The primitive portion of the human brain.” The author Richard Preston put it best in his book, The Hot Zone saying, “It could be said that the who of [the victim] has already died while the what of [the victim] continues to live.”

The vomit attack can break the weakened blood vessels in the nose causing blood to rush out of both nostrils. The blood is actually a shiny arterial fluid that refuses to coagulate. This is due to the fact that the clotting factors in the blood have all been used up. Now the person is rendered incapable to responding to offers of help. They do not wish to be touched and answer questions with grunts and moans. They may be able to tell you as much as a name but nothing else (Preston.)

At last the infected person will slump down to the floor or in a seat as if sleeping or dead. The victim now feels better because the stomach is dull, heavy, and bloated as if the person has just eaten a meal. Actually the stomach is full of arterial blood (Preston.) The final stage is when the victim goes into epileptic convulsions. This may be a way for the virus to try and jump hosts, by spreading its dying victim’s blood around. A “human virus bomb” explodes. Specialists at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) say the victim has, “crashed and bled out” or “gone down.” The person becomes dizzy and weak, losing all sense of balance and toppling to the floor. They go into shock and begin to vomit up incredible amounts of blood. The person becomes unconscious but continues to vomit up blood and black matter. Finally, there is, what has been described in The Hot Zone as, a gut wrenching sound of bed sheets being torn in half. This is the sound of the bowels opening and venting blood from the anus as well as every other orifice on the body. The intestinal lining has come off and is being expelled along with huge amounts of blood. The outer layer of the tongue, the back of the throat, and the wind pipe has, painfully, sloughed off earlier and bits and pieces are now being spilled out of the body. Pools of blood are rapidly spreading around the body possibly being splashed around by the still convulsing corpse. The “Hot Agent” has destroyed the host and is now trying to find a new one to jump to (Preston.)


The Ebola virus has been wiping out tribes and villages in central Africa since the 1960’s. However the first major outbreak recorded was in Marburg, Germany. On August 8th, 1967 an outbreak had infected 31 people and killed 7. The virus was named Marburg after the place it was first discovered. It wasn’t noted in any records until 1970 were, presented as a synopsis on the virus, where a collection of papers were made and kept in the University of Marburg in Marburg Germany. The virus apparently arrived in infected monkeys who didn’t show any sings of sickness until a week or two after arrival. A man, who had the job of killing the sick monkeys, and his assistant, broke with an illness that swept through the factory. The survivors showed symptoms similar to over radiation. All of them lost most, if not all of, their hair. The testicles of a male infected with the virus would swell up and start to rot turning black and blue. One man gave Marburg to his wife through sexual intercourse. The labia of the female turn blue and protrusive and there is a great amount of vaginal bleeding. Ebola and Marburg infection are horrendous on a pregnant woman. The child is aborted and is born infected with the Ebola virus, usually with red eyes and a bloody nose. Both men and woman would bleed out of every hole, or tear in their body (General Information.)

Ebola Zaire, Sudan, and Ivory Coast, are believed to have originated form the areas around Ebola River. Ebola Sudan, however may come from Kitum Cave in Mount Elgon. The first man to breakout with Ebola Sudan was a Frenchman whose name is not known. He is believed to have caught it on January 1st, 1980. Seven days later he came down with a headache and three days later crashed and bled out. Another person, a collage student who wanted to be a geologist, went up to see the petrified trees and crystals in the same cave. He caught Ebola Sudan as well. A team of military Biohazard specialists went into Kitum cave. There are sharp crystals growing in the cave and petrified trees sticking out of the wall. There are two colonies of bat living in the cave too, fruit eating and insect eating. Perhaps the young geologist put his hand in the guano. Samples of the guano were taken and came up negative. It’s possible they were bitten by bug, or crushed a spider and got blood on their fingers. To this day, nobody knows (Sanchez.)

Ebola Reston is, as stated earlier, not infectious to humans. There was a scare in Texas in 1993 to 1994. A shipment of sick monkeys was sent to a monkey house there and within three weeks the entire building was full of infected monkeys. A group of ten to fifteen monkeys spread the virus from room to room throughout the building. Even though it doesn’t seen to be infections to humans it is treated with Biohazard level 4 care (Investigation of Texas.) The Frenchman’s strain of Ebola Sudan is currently frozen and stored in (USAMRIID). To this day his blood, and the blood of other infected people who had blood samples sent to USAMRIID, is being injected into monkeys with hope of finding a cure for the possible destruction of the human race (Preston.) Bibliography

Courbot. “Isolation and Phylogenetic Characterization of Ebola Viruses Causing Different Outbreaks in Gabon”, Vol. 3 No. 1 Http://

“Ebola Virus Hemorrhagic Fever: General Information”. Http://

“Filoviruses In Non-human Primates: Overview Of The Investigation In Texas”. Http://

Genentech. Francis, Don. “Don Francis and the Ebola Virus”,

Henahan, Sean. “Access Excellence: Ebola Interview”, Http://

Preston, Richard. The Hot Zone, Published by Doubleday, 1994.

Sanchez. “Reemergence of Ebola Virus in Africa”, Vol. 1 No. 3 Http://

Grade Received:
97% A

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