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What is Ebola?
Ebola, also known as Ebola virus disease (EVD), is a type of hemorrhagic fever. It is a rare and often deadly disease. It can be caused by several different types of Ebola viruses. There are occasional outbreaks of Ebola, and they mostly occur in Africa.
How does Ebola spread?
Researchers believe that the virus first spreads from an infected animal to a human. Ebola can then spread from human to human through direct contact with:
- Blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola.
- Objects (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment) contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola.
- Semen (through oral, vaginal, or anal sex) from a man who has recovered from Ebola. The virus can remain in semen and other body fluids, even if the person no longer has symptoms.
When people become infected with Ebola, they do not start developing signs or symptoms right away. They cannot spread Ebola to others until after they develop symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
The symptoms of Ebola may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus. The average is about 8 to 10 days. The symptoms usually include:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Weakness and fatigue
- Sore throat
- Gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal (belly) pain, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
Other symptoms may include a rash, red eyes, and hiccups.
How is Ebola diagnosed?
The early symptoms of Ebola are similar to other more common diseases. This makes it difficult to diagnose Ebola in someone who has been infected for only a few days. If a person has the symptoms of Ebola and may have been exposed to the virus, the health care provider can do a blood test for Ebola. It can take a few days after the symptoms start before Ebola shows up in the blood test.
What are the treatments for Ebola?
In the United States, there are two approved medicines to treat Ebola that is caused by one specific type of virus (Zaire ebolavirus). These medicines have not been evaluated to treat Ebola caused by other types of Ebola viruses. The medicines are monoclonal antibodies, which are immune system proteins that are created in the lab.
Whether or not there are medicines to treat a case of Ebola, there is supportive care. This type of care can improve the chances of survival, especially when given early. Supportive care includes:
- Giving fluids and electrolytes
- Giving medicines to support blood pressure, reduce vomiting and diarrhea, and to manage fever and pain
- Giving oxygen
- Treating any other complications or infections
People who recover may still have side effects afterwards, such as fatigue, muscle aches, eye and vision problems, and stomach pain.
Can Ebola be prevented?
In the United States, there is one vaccine that has been approved to prevent Ebola caused by one specific type of Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus). It may be given to health care providers who will be or may be treating Ebola patients and people who work with live Ebola virus in labs.
If you live in or plan to travel to a region where Ebola virus may be present, you can help protect yourself by avoiding contact with:
- Blood and body fluids of people who are sick
- Semen from a man who has recovered from Ebola, until testing shows that the virus is gone from his semen
- Items that could be contaminated with blood or body fluids from someone who has Ebola
- Bats, forest antelopes, and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys and chimpanzees), including their blood, fluids, or meat
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Ebola Virus Disease (World Health Organization) Also in Spanish
- What is Ebola Virus Disease? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease): Signs and Symptoms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Diagnosis and Tests
- Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease): Diagnosis (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease): Prevention and Vaccine (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever: Transmission (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Ebola transmission: Can Ebola Spread Through the Air? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Ebola Vaccine Information Statement (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Treatments and Therapies
- Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease): Treatment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus Infections (Merck & Co., Inc.) Also in Spanish
- Facts about Ebola (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF
Statistics and Research
- Ebola Outbreaks (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Ebola Vaccines (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Ebolavirus (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Ebola (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Ebola virus disease (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) -- Ebola Vaccine: What You Need to Know (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)