Ebola, or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), is a rare and deadly disease that belongs to the virus family Filoviridae1.There are five unique Ebola virus species, four of which cause disease in humans. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in present day Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, Ebola has been ever-present in Africa.1



Ebola is transmitted through close contact with the blood, urine, vaginal discharge, semen, sweat, and phlegm of infected people or through contact with surfaces (e.g., bedding, clothing) that have been contaminated with these fluids. Men can transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after their recovery.2 Medical assistants, embalmers, funeral workers, and others who come into frequent contact with infected people are at a higher risk for contracting the virus.


2014 Ebola Outbreak

The 2014 Ebola outbreak is the largest of its kind ever reported. It has affected several West African countries and the United States. Multiple cases were reported in Nigeria, Senegal, and Europe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on September 30, 2014, that a person travelling to Dallas, Texas from West Africa had tested positive for Ebola. This individual sought medical care at Texas Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and later died from the virus.5 A healthcare worker who reportedly tended to this patient later tested positive for Ebola, was put into isolation, and recovered. Currently, the CDC is attempting to track down anyone that may have contracted the virus from the healthcare worker.


The incubation period (time interval between moment of infection and onset of symptoms) for the Ebola virus is between two and 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. Symptoms include the following:

·      High fever (over 101° F or 38.3° C)

·      Fatigue

·      Headache

·      Joint and muscle aches

·      Sore throat

·      Weakness

·      Stomach pain

·      Loss of appetite

These symptoms initially give the appearance of the common flu. But the virus can eventually cause internal bleeding; bleeding from the eyes, throat, ears, and nose; diarrhea; coughing up of blood; and a rash.3 The rash usually covers the entire body, contains blood in a blistering sore and peels during the later stages.


Ebola is often mistaken for malaria, thyroid fever, or meningitis because their symptoms can be very similar. A doctor can confirm the presence of the Ebola virus by using one of the following techniques:

·      Antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)

·      Antigen-capture detection test

·      Serum neutralization test

·      Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay

·      Electron microscopy

·      Virus isolation by cell culture

These tests are conducted under maximum containment conditions due to the extremely contagious nature of the virus.2


There is no current cure for Ebola, but doctors can manage the symptoms utilizing fluids and electrolytes, oxygen, blood pressure medication, and blood transfusions, as well as beginning treatment upon detection of the virus.3

Prevention and Control

Community education and awareness is essential to preventing future Ebola outbreaks. Raising awareness of risk factors and taking protective measures against them will reduce rates of human transmission. The critical areas of education for outbreak prevention include the following:

·      Decreasing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats, monkeys/apes, and the consumption of their raw meat.2

·      Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission from close or direct contact with people who experience Ebola symptoms.

·      Enforcing rigorous outbreak containment measures, including safe burial of the dead, identification of people who have come in contact with the virus, and good hygiene habits.


  1. "About Ebola Virus Disease." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 Oct. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
  2. "Ebola Virus Disease." WHO. N.p., Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
  3. Cassoobhoy, Arefa. "Ebola Virus: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention." WebMD. WebMD, 5 Aug. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
  4. "About Ebola Virus Disease." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 Oct. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
  5. "Cases of Ebola Diagnosed in the United States." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

Last Updated 02 January 2015.