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Ebola Virus disease

ebola virus under microscope

Ebola virus disease (EVD or Ebola) is a rare but often deadly infectious disease in humans and non-human primates (including chimpanzees, gorillas, and monkeys). People can become infected through hunting or preparing meat from an infected animal in areas where Ebola is known to occur. Ebola can then spread from one person to another through direct contact with a person who has Ebola, blood or body fluids from an infected person, or contaminated objects.

There are 6 types of Ebola virus, four of which are known to cause disease in humans (Zaire, Sudan, Tai Forest, and Bundibugyo). Ebola virus has been associated with several large outbreaks in Central Africa and Western Africa, including the 2014–2016 West African EVD epidemic, when there were more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths. The Sudan Ebola virus has caused several outbreaks in Sudan and Uganda, including the EVD outbreak in Uganda confirmed in September 2022.

Important Update

  • On January 11, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2022 Uganda Ebola outbreak over, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discontinued monitoring of travelers returning from Uganda.

  • A total of 142 cases including 55 deaths were reported from nine districts in Uganda during September-November 2022. The outbreak was declared over after 42 days (twice the incubation period for Ebola infection) have passed since the last case was reported.

Where is Ebola virus found?

Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since then, there have been multiple outbreaks of Ebola virus spreading among people in certain parts of Africa.

How does Ebola virus spread?

Ebola virus can spread from animal to animal, animal to human, and human to human. The natural source or reservoir of Ebola virus is unknown, but it is believed that bats carrying the virus are able to transmit it to certain animals and humans. One way that humans may become infected with Ebola virus is while hunting or preparing meat from infected animals in areas where Ebola is known to occur. For more information on Ebola transmission, see the CDC Ebola Virus Ecology and Transmission Graphic.

How do people get Ebola virus disease?

People can get Ebola virus disease from contact with infected animals (specifically bats and non-human primates) and from direct contact with other people who are sick with Ebola. Ebola virus can easily spread from an infected person to their close contacts. This includes:

      • Family and friends in close contact with someone who has Ebola

      • Healthcare providers who do not follow proper infection control steps while caring for someone who is sick with Ebola 

        • Healthcare providers caring for someone who is sick with Ebola are at the highest risk of getting infected unless they follow proper infection control measures. 

Ebola virus can enter a person's body by direct contact through broken skin or through mucous membranes (such as in the eyes, nose, or mouth) in the following ways:

      • By touching the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola (body fluids include: urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen)

      • By touching objects (such as needles and syringes) contaminated with blood or body fluids from a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola

      • By having sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a man who has recently recovered from Ebola

        • There is no evidence that Ebola can spread through sex or other contact with vaginal fluids from a woman who has had Ebola

      • By direct contact with infected fruit bats or non-human primates (including apes, monkeys, and gorillas)

      • While hunting or preparing (cutting or cleaning) meat from animals that are infected with Ebola virus

Ebola virus can only spread from a person who actively has signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease (EVD). A person cannot get Ebola virus from someone who does not have symptoms of EVD, except through sex with a man who has recently recovered from having EVD.

What are the symptoms of Ebola virus disease?

The main symptoms of Ebola are:

      • Fever
      • Severe headache
      • Fatigue (tiredness)
      • Muscles aches
      • Vomiting
      • Abdominal pain
      • Diarrhea

In some cases, people may also have unexplained bleeding. ​

Symptoms of Ebola virus disease

Many illnesses associated with international travel, including malaria, yellow fever, and typhoid fever, can have similar symptoms as Ebola. If you have traveled internationally and feel sick, talk to your healthcare provider. Be sure to tell your provider about your travel history. If you have recently traveled to an area where Ebola is spreading, follow these steps:

      • Self-monitor for fever and other symptoms of Ebola virus disease (EVD), which include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding during the 21 days after leaving an area experiencing an active EVD outbreak.

      • Seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of EVD. Before going to the doctor's office, emergency room, or other clinical setting, contact the doctor or other healthcare provider by phone and inform them about the recent travel and symptoms. This will help healthcare providers prepare their facility and protect other people.

      • If you have questions about EVD symptoms or self-monitoring, contact your local health department

How is Ebola virus disease treated?

If a person has been exposed to Ebola virus and becomes sick, laboratory tests may be used to determine if the person has Ebola virus disease (EVD). There are currently two U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antibody treatments for EVD caused by the Zaire Ebola virus, but none for EVD caused by the Sudan Ebola virus. Early supportive care at a hospital can improve the chances of survival.

Supportive care includes:

      • Ensuring proper hydration and electrolyte management

      • Managing fever, vomiting, and diarrhea

      • Offering oxygen support if needed

      • Treating any other infections that may arise

For more information on Ebola, including detailed prevention methods for travelers to areas where Ebola is found, please view the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Ebola Virus Disease fact sheet (PDF).

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