Ebola Virus Disease

What is ebola virus disease?

Ebola virus disease is an infectious condition caused by the Ebola virus. It leads to an illness characterized by fever and bleeding. The transmission occurs through direct contact with contaminated body fluids. Symptoms usually appear between 2 to 21 days after infection and people are infectious once they start showing symptoms. There is still no cure but good care increases the chances of defeating the virus. Prevention is essential to reduce viral transmission.

Risks

This condition is caused by a highly contagious virus. Transmission occurs through contact with body fluids, such as blood, sweat, urine, saliva (spit) and broken skin. People exposed to objects contaminated with these fluids, animals or people with the illness have an increased risk of infection. Although highly contagious, the virus does not spread through the air or by touch. Ebola virus is found in West Africa, so people who live or travel to countries with Ebola are at increased risk of catching the virus.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Ebola infection usually appear between 2 to 21 days after infection. People with Ebola infection are infectious once they begin to show symptoms. The early symptoms of Ebola infection are very similar with those of flu or malaria, with fever, sweating, muscle aches and headaches. Later symptoms include stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, bruising and bleeding from the mouth, eyes, ears and bowel.

Diagnosis

The early symptoms of Ebola infection are very similar with those of flu or malaria, so early diagnosis can be difficult. Blood tests are used to confirm the infection by Ebola virus. If symptoms are not seen within 21 days this condition is excluded.

Treatment

There is not currently a cure or licensed vaccine for the Ebola Virus. Medical care is necessary to prevent dehydration and to maintain vital functions (especially blood pressure). Blood transfusions are often necessary to replace losses from bleeding.

Prevention

Prevention is very important to control outbreaks of this virus. People with Ebola infection are infectious once they begin to show symptoms, so if a person is at risk of having Ebola, it is important to take care until the cause of illness is confirmed. Avoiding unprotected contact with infected body fluids when caring for people with an Ebola infection, and taking precautions at the funerals of people that died from Ebola can help to decrease the spread of this virus.

Other names for ebola virus disease

  • Ebola hemorrhagic fever
  • EHF
  • EVD