Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. EVD is caused by a virus called Ebola Virus, this virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. Early recognition of Ebola is critical for infection control. Health-care providers should be alert and evaluate any patients suspected of having Ebola. (sources: WHO and CDC)
The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%
Regarding the last outbreak, it began in Guinea in December 2013 and then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. A small outbreak of twenty cases occurred in Nigeria and one case occurred in Senegal; both countries were declared disease-free on 20 October 2014. Several other countries also had small outbreaks of Ebola.
(sources: WHO and CDC)
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of Ebola include:
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. Other symptoms that may also be present are hiccups, difficulty breathing and chest pain.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.
No FDA-approved vaccine or medicine (e.g., antiviral drug) is available for Ebola. Symptoms of Ebola and complications 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. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It is not known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola. Some people who have recovered from Ebola have developed long-term complications, such as joint and vision problems.
If you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola outbreak, make sure to do the following:
- Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
- Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
- Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
- Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
- Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
- After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.
Healthcare workers who may be exposed to people with Ebola should follow these steps:
- Wear appropriate PPE.
- Practice proper infection control and sterilization measures. For more information, see Ebola Information for Non-U.S. Healthcare Settings.
- Isolate patients with Ebola from other patients.
- Avoid direct contact with the bodies of people who have died from Ebola.
- Notify health officials if you have had direct contact with the blood or body fluids, such as but not limited to, feces, saliva, urine, vomit, and semen of a person who is sick with Ebola. The virus can enter the body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth