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What is Ebola?

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a rare viral disease often characterized by fevers, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, weakness, muscle pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising that develop between two to 21 days (average eight to 10 days) after exposure. Although the natural reservoir host of Ebola virus is still unknown, scientists believe bats are the most likely reservoir.  Approximately 50 percent of people who have been infected with Ebola have died.

How is Ebola spread?

Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola or who has died from Ebola. It also can be spread by contact with surfaces or materials that have been contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick with Ebola or who has died from Ebola, and from infected fruit bats or primates. Researchers now believe that Ebola may also be spread from contact with semen from a man who has recovered from Ebola.

Have there been previous outbreaks?

Ebola was first discovered in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have occurred sporadically in Africa. The recent 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak occurred mostly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and is by the far the most widespread and complex Ebola outbreak to date. In the recent outbreak, there were an estimated 28,652 cases and 11,325 confirmed deaths that spanned rural and urban settings. The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa over on June 9, 2016.

What is the treatment?

There is currently no FDA-approved treatment for Ebola, but the development of several vaccines, drug therapies, immune therapies, and blood product therapies are underway. Chances for survival increase with early supportive care and symptomatic treatment. In addition, robust prevention and control measures to reduce the risk of transmission and to contain spread are essential to containing future Ebola outbreaks.

If you are evaluating a patient suspected to have Ebola:

  • Ask about travel history, exposure to persons with Ebola, and the patient’s symptoms.

  • Isolate the patient in a private room.

  • Call the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: 303-692-2700 or 303-370-9395 (after hours).

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