Ebola Virus Facts
What is Ebola?
Ebola, previously known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains. Ebola can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees.)
Ebola viruses are found in several African countries. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa.
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. Four of the five virus strains
occur in an animal host native to Africa.
How is Ebola Spread?
When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways. 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
- objects (like needles, syringes or contaminated clothing) that have been contaminated with the virus, or
- infected animals
How Is Ebola Diagnosed?
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 and are seen often in patients with more commonly occurring diseases, such as malaria or typhoid fever.
However, if a person has the early symptoms of Ebola and has direct contact as described
above, they should be isolated and public health professionals notified. Samples from
the patient can then be collected and tested to confirm infection.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Ebola?
Symptoms of Ebola include
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
When will Symptoms Appear after Contracting the Virus?
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average
is 8 to 10 days.
How is Ebola Treated?
No FDA-approved vaccine or medicine (e.g., antiviral drug) is available for Ebola at this time. Symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. Basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival. These interventions include
- Providing intravenous fluids (IV)and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
- Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
- Treating other infections if they occur
What is the Likelihood of Recovery?
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.