Fast facts about the Ebola Virus

Posted on July 29, 2014


At least 729 people in four countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria — have died since cases first emerged in March. Two American health workers in Liberia have been infected, and an American man of Liberian descent died in Nigeria from the disease. It has gone quickly from a third world problem, to a potential world problem.

Here are some quick facts about the virus:


  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, has occurred primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa. It  is a severe, often fatal illness in humans with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. There are five identified subspecies of Ebolavirus. Four of the five have caused disease in humans: Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus); Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus); Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus); and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus). The fifth, Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus), has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.


  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are the natural host of the Ebola virus, and it was introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals found ill or dead or in the rainforest. It then spread in the human population through human-to-human transmission during  direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus.


  • It is often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. The incubation period (time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms) is 2 to 21 days.20140704_Ebola


  • Other diseases that should be ruled out before a diagnosis of EVD can be made include: malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, cholera, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, hepatitis and other viral haemorrhagic fevers. However, it can be diagnosed definitively in a laboratory through several types of tests: antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), antigen detection tests, serum neutralization test, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, electron microscopy and virus isolation by cell culture.


  • There is currently no cure for severely ill patients, they only require intensive supportive care. Patients are frequently dehydrated and require oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes or intravenous fluids. There is also no licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals. New drug therapies are currently being evaluated.


  • Reduce the consumption of wildlife and their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption. Reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community arising from direct or close contact with infected patients, particularly with their bodily fluids. Close physical contact with Ebola patients should be avoided. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home.


For more information, visit the World Health Organization or Center for Disease Control