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EBOLA VIRUS Ebola virus a member of the Filoviridae burst from obscurity with spectacular outbreaks of severe haemorrhagic fever It was first associated with an outbreak of 318 cases and a case-fatality rate of 90 in Zaire and caused 150 deaths among 250 cases in Sudan Smaller outbreaks continue to appear periodically particularly in East Central and southern Africa In 1989 a haemorrhagic disease was recognized among cynomolgus macaques imported into the United States from the Philippines Strains of Ebola virus were isolated from these monkeys Serologic studies in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia indicated that Ebola virus is a prevalent cause of infection among macaques Manson 1989 These threadlike polymorphic viruses are highly variable in length apparently owing to concatemerization However the average length of an infectious virion appears to be 920 nm The virions are 80 nm in diameter with a helical nucleocapsid a membrane made of 10 nm projections and host cell membrane They contain a unique single-stranded molecule of noninfectious negative sense RNA The virus is composed of 7 polypeptides a nucleoprotein a glycoprotein a polymerase and 4 other undesignated proteins Proteins are produced from polyadenylated monocistronic mRNA species transcribed from virus RNA The replication in and destruction of the host cell is rapid and produces a large number of viruses budding from the cell membrane Epidemics have resulted from person to person transmission nosocomial spread or laboratory infections The mode of primary infection and the natural ecology of these viruses are unknown Association with bats has been implicated directly in at least 2 episodes when individuals entered the same bat-filled cave in Eastern Kenya Ebola infections in Sudan in 1976 and 1979 occurred in workers of a cotton factory containing thousands of bats in the roof However in all instances study of antibody in bats failed to detect evidence of infection and no virus was isolated form bat tissue The index case in 1976
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