Ebola Virus Disease

Ebola virus disease

Previously known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever.

Caused by a virus (filovirus).

The disease is severe and often fatal in humans and primates (such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees).


Sporadic outbreaks have occurred since 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, Congo and Gabon.

Current (2014) outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.


Spread via direct contact with contaminated blood or secretions of an infected person or animal (dead or alive), and indirectly via contact with objects (such as needles, clothing and bedding) contaminated with infectious secretions.

Does not spread through the air and cannot be transmitted by mosquitoes.

High risk groups

Healthcare workers, family members or friends in close contact with infected people.

Hunters/other persons who may come into contact with infected animals.

Incubation period

Symptoms start 2 to 21 days (average 8-10 days) after exposure.


Fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, weakness, headache, joint and muscle aches, rash, sore throat, chest pains, red eyes, hiccups, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, impaired kidney and liver function as well as bleeding inside and outside of the body.


Treatment is typically supportive


There is no vaccine available to prevent the disease


Travellers to endemic areas, under normal circumstances, are at low risk but they should adhere to preventative measures and seek medical attention if any related symptoms appear and mention their travel history to the doctor before the consultation.

Preventative measures

During an outbreak, strict measures must be taken to prevent the disease from spreading, especially in high risk groups:

·         Isolate Ebola patients from contact with unprotected persons.

·         Avoid contact with blood or other bodily secretions from an infected person or animal (dead or alive).

·         Wear appropriate protective clothing when in contact with an infected person or animal.

·         Avoid contact with objects (needles, syringes, other instruments, soiled clothing or bedding) that may be contaminated.

·         Sterilise and disinfect all equipment.

·         Wash hands regularly with soap and clean water.

·         Adhere to safe water and food practices - cook animal products thoroughly and avoid eating raw meat (‘bush meat”) from infected animals.

·         Avoid having unprotected sexual intercourse with patients for up to seven weeks after they have recovered from the disease.

·         Bury people who died from Ebola promptly and safely.

·         Samples taken from suspected human or animal cases should be handled by trained laboratory staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories under maximum biological containment conditions.








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  2. Ebola Virus Disease: Frequently asked Questions. National Institute for communicable diseases. Available from: http://www.nicd.ac.za/?page=alerts&id=5&rid=359
  3. National health services. Available from www.travax.co.za
  4. Ebola virus disease. WHO. Fact sheep No 103. Last updated April 2014. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/