Ebola is a rare but deadly virus that causes fever, body aches, and diarrhoea, and sometimes bleeding inside and outside the body.
As the virus spreads through the body, it damages the immune system and organs. Ultimately, it causes levels of blood-clotting cells to drop.
This leads to severe, uncontrollable bleeding.
The disease was known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever but is now referred to as Ebola virus.
It kills up to 90% of people who are infected.
Ebola isn’t as contagious as more common viruses like colds, influenza, or measles. It spreads to people by contact with the skin or bodily fluids of an infected animal, like a monkey, chimp, or fruit bat. Then it moves from person to person the same way. Those who care for a sick person or bury someone who has died from the disease often get it.
Other ways to get Ebola include touching contaminated needles or surfaces.
You can’t get Ebola from air, water, or food. A person who has Ebola but has no symptoms can’t spread the disease, either.
Early on, Ebola can feel like the flu or other illnesses. Symptoms show up 2 to 21 days after infection and usually include:
Joint and muscle aches
Lack of appetite
As the disease gets worse, it causes bleeding inside the body, as well as from the eyes, ears, and nose. Some people will vomit or cough up blood, have bloody diarrhea, and get a rash.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a person has Ebola from the symptoms alone. Doctors may test to rule out other diseases like cholera or malaria.
Tests of blood and tissues also can diagnose Ebola.
If you have Ebola, you’ll be isolated from the public immediately to prevent the spread.
There’s no cure for Ebola, though researchers are working on it. Treatment includes an experimental serum that destroys infected cells.
Doctors manage the symptoms of Ebola with:
Fluids and electrolytes
Blood pressure medication
Treatment for other infections
There’s no vaccine to prevent Ebola. The best way to avoid catching the disease is by not travelling to areas where the virus is found.
If you are in areas where Ebola is present, avoid contact with bats, monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas since these animals spread Ebola to people.
Health care workers prevent infection by wearing masks, gloves, and goggles whenever they come into contact with people who may have Ebola.