Ebola is a severe disease — often fatal — that affects humans and some animals. It is caused by Ebola viruses.

Ebola spreads by direct contact through broken skin or mouth, eyes or nose with:

  • Body fluids — blood, vomit, feces, urine or sweat — of someone who is sick with Ebola
  • Objects soiled with the body fluids of a person sick with Ebola
  • The body of a person who died from Ebola

People only become contagious after they begin to have symptoms, such as fever. Body fluids from patients with more severe illness are more infectious than body fluids of those who are first reporting symptoms.

Ebola does not spread through the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that Ebola is spread by coughing or sneezing. It is very difficult to spread Ebola during brief, casual contact, like a handshake or bumping into someone. There is virtually no risk of getting Ebola by taking public transportation.

However, large droplets (splashes or sprays) of respiratory or other secretions from a person who is sick with Ebola could be infectious. Certain precautions (standard, contact and droplet precautions) are recommended for healthcare settings to prevent the transmission of Ebola from patients to healthcare personnel and other patients or family members


The disease usually starts with an abrupt fever, possibly with headache and joint and muscle aches. Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rash
  • Problems breathing
  • Red eyes
  • Problems swallowing
  • Hiccups
  • Bleeding inside and outside the body
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain

Symptoms may appear from two to 21 days after exposure, but usually within eight to 10 days. After 21 days without symptoms, a person is recovered from Ebola. The severity of the disease varies, but over 50% of patients with Ebola died during past outbreaks.


There are currently two medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Ebola caused by the virus Zaire ebolavirus. There are no approved medications for other types of Ebola.

Treatment focuses on supportive care and may require intensive care unit support.


Measures to stop the disease from spreading include:

  • Quickly identifying people who might be infected
  • Isolating Ebola patients from contact with uninfected people
  • Following infection control guidelines in health care facilities (sterilizing medical equipment and wearing protective equipment)
  • Monitoring the health of people who may have come into contact with an infected person

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