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Ebola Virus disease

EbolaVirusEbola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare but often fatal infectious disease that affects humans and non-human primates (including chimpanzees, gorillas, and monkeys). The Ebola virus is transmitted to people from bats or non-human primates and spreads within human populations by person-to-person transmission. The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), near the Ebola River during the first documented EVD outbreak, and has since caused several outbreaks in Africa.

The Zaire ebolavirus is the specific species associated with a large EVD outbreak in the DRC that began in August 2018 and has continued into 2019. It was also associated with the 2014–2016 West African EVD pandemic during which there were more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.

Where does the Ebola virus occur?

The Ebola virus is found only in certain parts of Africa.

How does the Ebola virus spread?

The Ebola virus can spread from animal to animal, animal to human, and human to human. There is some evidence that certain bats may be the reservoir hosts, or main source of infection, for the Ebola virus. Bats may transmit the virus to other animals and humans. Humans may become infected with the Ebola virus while hunting or preparing meat from infected animals. For more information on Ebola transmission, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Virus Ecology Graphic.

How do people get the Ebola virus?

People can become infected with the Ebola virus by direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes (such as in the eyes, nose, or mouth) in the following ways:

  • While hunting or preparing (cutting or cleaning) meat from animals that are infected with the Ebola virus
  • By touching the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD (body fluids include: urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, or semen)
  • By touching objects (such as needles and syringes) contaminated with body fluids or blood from a person who is sick with or has died from EVD
  • By having sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a man who has recently had symptoms of EVD
  • By direct contact with infected fruit bats or non-human primates (including apes, monkeys, and gorillas)

A person cannot get the 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 EVD?

The main symptoms of EVD are:
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscles aches
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

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

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​How is EVD treated?

If a person has been exposed to the Ebola virus and becomes sick, laboratory tests may be used to determine if the person has EVD. There are currently no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatments for EVD. However, early supportive care 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 EVD, including detailed prevention methods for travelers to areas where EVD is found, please view the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Ebola virus factsheet (PDF).   

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