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About Ebola Virus Disease

Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with Ebola virus. The natural reservoir host of Ebola virus remains unknown. However, on the basis of evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is animal-borne and that bats are the most likely reservoir.

When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:

  • Blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.
  • Objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus.
  • Infected animals.
  • Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus.

In the U.S., we have excellent infection control procedures to prevent spread of disease. Adherence to wearing proper protective equipment, hand hygiene, and basic disinfection and sterilization will stop spread of Ebola. In resource-limited countries, Ebola disease can spread quickly if proper infection control measures are not in place. Basic infection prevention measures like gloves, gowns, and even soap and water can be in limited supply. Health care providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients if proper precautions are not taken.


Diagnosing Ebola in a person who has been infected for only a few days is difficult, because the early symptoms, such as fever, are nonspecific to Ebola infection and are seen often in patients with more commonly occurring diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever. However, if a person has the early symptoms of Ebola and has risk factors, such as travel to or residence in a country where Ebola is spreading, contact with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola, or contact with infected animals, then they should be isolated and public health professionals notified. Samples from the patient can then be collected and special tests can confirm infection.

Symptoms of Ebola include

  • Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F).
  • Severe headache.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Weakness.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain.
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).

Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is eight to ten days.

Treatment and Recovery

No FDA-approved vaccine or medicine (e.g., antiviral drug) is available for Ebola. Symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival:
  • Providing intravenous fluids (IV) and balancing electrolytes (body salts).
  • Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure.
  • Treating other infections if they occur.

Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness. Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient's immune response. For additional information on Ebola hemorrhagic fever, go to

Source: 10/6/2014