Ebola virus disease - including symptoms, treatment and prevention
Ebola virus disease is caused by an Ebola virus, of which there are five species. Ebola virus disease is also known as Ebola, and was previously called Ebola haemorrhagic fever.
Ebola virus disease is a type of viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF), which are life threatening infections whose symptoms can include fever and bleeding.
Outbreaks of Ebola virus disease in humans have occurred only in Africa, specifically in, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, the Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. There has never been a case in Australia.
Ebola virus disease is a notifiable condition1
How Ebola virus disease is spread
Many VHF viruses are found naturally amongst wild animals, such as bats, rodents (for example, rats and mice), monkeys and apes. Occasionally these viruses break through into the human population and cause outbreaks, then usually disappear for many years.
The natural animal host of Ebola virus is unknown. It is likely the first patient in a cluster or outbreak becomes infected with Ebola virus through contact with an infected animal.
Ebola virus disease can be transmitted from person to person via:
contact with blood or body fluids (for example, urine, saliva, faeces and vomit) from an infected person (living or deceased)
contact with an area contaminated with blood or body fluids of an infected person
Signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease
Initial symptoms are flu-like and may include:
sudden onset of fever
muscle aches and pains
Illness then progresses with symptoms such as:
diarrhoea and vomiting
headaches and confusion
sore throat and cough
extreme tiredness and collapse.
Some people go on to develop bleeding problems, multi-organ failure and death. Bleeding problems may include bleeding from the nose or gums, vomiting or coughing blood, bruising, rashes and internal bleeding.
The death rate of Ebola virus disease depends on the species. For Zaire species of Ebola virus it is estimated to be between 50% and 90%.
Diagnosis of Ebola virus disease
Cases are diagnosed by PCR on a blood specimen.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
From 2 to 21 days, most commonly 8 to 10 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
People are not infectious until the onset of symptoms. People are infectious as long as blood and secretions contain virus.
Treatment for Ebola virus disease
People with any symptoms of Ebola virus disease who have been in contact with someone with Ebola virus disease (or their blood or body fluids) should go to a hospital, preferably by ambulance, (and tell the ambulance and hospital staff of their exposure) to get treatment and avoid spreading the disease to others.
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