What is ebola virus disease?

This is a disease caused by a filovirus and is characterised by a severe and often fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans. The virus is named Ebola after a river in the Democratic republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire) where it was first discovered. The virus has four strains, Zaire, Sudan, Tai and Reston. The Reston strain doesn't infect humans.

How Is Ebola Spread? Transmission

Infection with humans is incidental since humans don't carry the virus in their bodies. Researchers believe that the disease is a zoonotic animal borne and is mainly maintained in an animal that is native to the African continent. The ebola virus is not spread through the air.

Humans can get infected via contact with blood, organs, secretions, and semen of an infected person. It can also be spread by use reused needles and other medical equipment.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ebola?

The symptoms occur 2-21 days more (commonly 7-14 days) after infection.

The early symptoms include headaches, fevers, chills, muscles aches and loss of appetite. As the disease progresses the patient has profuse Diarrhoea, rash, sore throat, vomiting abdominal pain and chest pain.

Patients also bleed internally and externally due to failure of blood to clot. Basically the patients bleed from every orifice of the body. The fatality rate ranges from 90% with the Zaire strain and 60% with the Sudan strain.


Diagnosis is difficult in a patient who has been infected in a few days because the symptoms are non specific.

Various laboratory tests can be used to diagnose a case of Ebola within a few days of onset of symptoms. Detection of Ebola antigens, antibodies or by a culture of a patient’s blood.


There is no standard treatment for Ebola virus disease. A patient is given supportive treatment mainly aimed at balancing the patients fluids and electrolytes.

Prevention of Ebola Viral Disease

No vaccine is effective against Ebola virus disease. Prevention of this disease proves a great challenge since the identity and location of the natural reservoir of the virus is unknown.

In situations where known cases are diagnosed the main aim is to prevent contact between non-infected people and the patients secretions or blood. Use of mask-gown-glove precautions, appropriate equipment sterilization, hospital closures, patient isolation and community education have helped end epidemics.

Ebola-Related Filovirus Infection
Filovirus - Ebola Overview
Ebola - Case History In Philippines

Last Updated on Tuesday 18th January 2011