What is Ebola Virus Disease?
Ebola Virus Disease is caused by the Ebola virus and is one of a number of hemorrhagic fever diseases. Ebola causes severe illness in which 50-90 percent of those infected die. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Ebola River.
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
How is Ebola spread?
Ebola is thought to be transmitted to people from wild animals. While the exact source of the virus in animals is unknown, Ebola has been found in fruit bats and primates such as monkeys and apes. The virus is thought to be transmitted to humans through the infected animal’s body fluids, such as eating an infected animal. The virus then spreads in humans from one person to another.
Among humans, Ebola is spread by:
- Direct contact 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 or has died from Ebola.
- Direct contact with objects (like needles, medical equipment or soiled bedding) that have been contaminated with the virus.
Ebola is NOT spread through the air, by water, or by food grown or legally purchased in the U.S.
A person infected with the Ebola virus cannot pass it to others before any symptoms appear.
Who is at risk for Ebola?
Healthcare 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 the blood or body fluids of sick patients.
Lower risks include sharing a household with an Ebola patient or travel to an affected area within the past 21 days.
What should I do if I have a risk for Ebola?
Call your local health department right away and let them know. They will help you set up a plan to monitor your health. If you develop symptoms within 21 days of exposure, follow the plan you set up with the local health department. After 21 days, if a person does not develop symptoms, they will not become sick with Ebola.
How do you test for Ebola?
If a person is at risk for Ebola AND is showing symptoms of Ebola, a blood test can be done to look for the Ebola virus.
How do you treat Ebola?
There is no medication that cures a patient of the infection. Treatment for Ebola is supportive, meaning providing fluids, maintaining blood pressure, replacing lost blood. Investigational treatments and vaccines are under development.
Early identification of Ebola is crucial. Getting health care as soon as symptoms appear increases the chances of surviving. It also prevents other people from getting infected because they will not come into contact with blood and body fluids of infected people.
How do you prevent Ebola?
There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. Prevention should focus on avoiding contact with the virus:
- Avoid non-essential travel to areas affected by the outbreak.
- Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of those who are sick with or have died from Ebola.
- Don’t handle items that have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
- Healthcare workers caring for Ebola patients should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Avoid contact with fruit bats and primates such as monkeys or apes in affected areas.
- Wash your hands often.
What about travel?
Before you travel
After you travel to an area affected by the outbreak:
- Call your local health department upon your return. They will help you set up a plan to monitor your health. If you develop symptoms within 21 days of your return, follow the plan you set up with the local health department. After 21 days, if a person does not develop symptoms, they will not become sick with Ebola.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Updated October 29, 2014