Ebola virus is the cause of a viral haemorrhagic fever. It is an often fatal disease that can infect both humans and non-human primates, such as chimpanzees.
Find out more about what causes Ebola, the symptoms and what steps are available to help prevent it spreading.
Ebola is the result of an infection by the Ebola virus. There are four known species that can cause harm to humans, all of which originate in Africa.
Ebola is transmitted in the following ways:
- Direct contact with infected animals, their blood and meat products
- Direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids or secretions (faeces, vomit, saliva, urine of semen) of an infected symptomatic person. A person who does not show symptoms is not contagious.
- Direct contact with the organs or body of someone who has died.
Infection occurs if broken skin or mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth, of a healthy person come into contact with the above or with items or environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient's infectious fluids. These include such things as soiled clothing, bed linen or used needles.
Ebola is not an airborne infection neither is it transmitted through water contamination.
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus, though 8-10 days is most common: Symptoms include:
- Sudden high fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
- Severe headache
- Extreme tiredness
- Aching joints or muscles
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
The early symptoms of Ebola are similar to those of flu (high fever, aching muscles, tiredness, sore throat) so it is possible that people may confuse the symptoms of flu with those of Ebola. Flu is likely to be accompanied a runny or blocked nose, sneezing and a dry chesty cough. Ebola symptoms will develop to include stomach pain, vomiting , diarrhoea, as well as unexplained bleeding and bruising.
If you are concerned, contact your local Health Authority or health care professional for further information and advice.
If you are in or travelling to an area affected by the Ebola outbreak, protect yourself by doing the following:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- Avoid contact with bodily fluids and blood from any person, especially people who are sick.
- Do not touch items that may have come in contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.
- Do not touch the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
- Do not touch non-human primates or bats or their body fluids and blood. Also do not touch or eat raw meat prepared from these animals.
- Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated unless you are suspecting Ebola.
- If you develop fever (temperature of 38.6°C or 101.5°F) and any of the following symptoms (headache, muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding), seek medical care immediately.
- Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else besides a healthcare facility.
If you live in an area where there is no sustained outbreak, the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community is to report to the nearest health facility if you develop any symptoms indicative of Ebola.
Myths and Truths
Q. Does Dettol kill Ebola?
Dettol products have been shown to kill a range of viruses of similar structure to Ebola. However Dettol products have not been tested specifically against Ebola because of the extreme hazard associated with the virus. There are only a limited number of laboratory facilities worldwide capable of handling the virus and their focus is on finding a vaccine.
The most important public health recommendation is that consumers seek medical help immediately when an Ebola infection is suspected.
Q. Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn’t have any symptoms?
No. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is showing symptoms.
Q. Can Ebola be transmitted through the air?
No, Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air.
Q. Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?
No. Ebola is not a food-borne illness. It is not a water-borne illness.
Q. Can you get Ebola from mosquitos?
No. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (for example, humans, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.