What is Ebola?
Ebola virus disease is a serious illness that originated in Africa, where a large outbreak occurred in 2014-15. In June 2016, the outbreak was officially declared over.
The 2014-15 outbreak of Ebola mainly affected three countries in west Africa: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Some cases also occurred in parts of central Africa.
Around 28,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths were reported by the World Health Organization. This was the largest known outbreak of Ebola.
What does Ebola do?
Symptoms begin with fever, muscle pain and a sore throat and can escalate rapidly to vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding. The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50% although they have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks. Health workers are at serious risk of contracting the disease and need to wear a protective suit covering their entire body.
How is the virus transmitted?
The virus is introduced into the human population through close contact with the bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats and chimpanzees.
The virus spreads through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact with infected indviduals, through broken skin or mucous membranes, and indirect contact with objects contaminated with bodily fluids, such as door handles and telephones.
Health workers who have close contact with infected patients are particularly at risk of contracting the disease. Burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the body of the deceased can also lead to the spread of Ebola.
Is the disease treatable?
There is no cure for the disease and treatment involves rehydration or intravenous fluids. Early treatment improves a patient’s chances of survival. There is no cure although during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 anti viral treatments were developed. A vaccine has also been developed and will be used in the latest outbreak to protect direct contacts of infected patients.