What is the Ebola Virus?


Ebola patients are discharged from Red Cross treatment centre in Kenema, Sierra LeoneThe worst Ebola epidemic on record originated in West Africa in March 2014 and by the end of 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported more than 28,600 confirmed or suspected cases and some 11,300 deaths.

How is the Ebola virus transmitted?

The Ebola virus can spread through direct contact with:

  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • objects that have been contaminated with the virus (such as soiled clothing, bed linens, or used  needles and syringes)
  • infected animals

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, food. 

What are the symptoms of Ebola virus?

Ebola can only be spread to others after symptoms begin. They can appear from 2 to 21 days after exposure.
  • Sudden fever
  • Weakness and muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Impaired kidney and liver function
  • Internal and external bleeding in some cases

Is there a cure for Ebola?

There is currently no cure. Patients are treated for their symptoms. Treatment options include:
  • supportive care in an intensive care unit
  • maintenance of fluid levels and electrolytes
  • maintenance of oxygen status and blood pressure
  • replacement of lost blood and clotting factors
  • strict isolation to prevent the infection from spreading

Which countries were affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak?

Cases were reported in 10 countries though more than 99 per cent were confined to three: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The Ebola outbreak officially ended in Sierra Leone in November, 2015; Guinea in December, and Liberia was declared free of the disease by the World Health Organization on 14 January, 2016.

How can an outbreak be stopped?

No licensed Ebola vaccines exist but several are in early testing. Community engagement and communication are key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on a collaborative strategy of intervention that includes; case management, treatment centres, monitoring and contract tracing, safe burials and disinfection and emotional support.