Updated 14 January 2016
What is Ebola virus disease?
Ebola is a severe disease, often fatal, caused by the Ebola virus.
It is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids (e.g. saliva, urine, vomit, semen) from infected people, dead or alive.
Symptoms usually appear between two days and 21 days following exposure to the virus. The disease may start suddenly with fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches, or other non-specific symptoms. In a later stage, some patients may have profuse internal and external bleeding and multi-organ failure.
There is no licensed vaccine or validated treatment for the disease.
Risk of infection with Ebola virus and how to avoid it
Even if you are living in, or have travelled to, areas with community transmission, the risk of infection with Ebola virus is low, unless you have been directly exposed to the bodily fluids of dead or living infected persons or animals. Contact with bodily fluids includes unprotected sexual contact with patients up to three months after they have recovered.
Casual contact in public places with people that do not appear to be sick does not transmit Ebola. You cannot contract Ebola virus by handling money, groceries, or swimming in a pool. Mosquitoes do not transmit the Ebola virus. And Ebola virus does not transmit through the air as influenza does.
Ebola virus is easily killed by soap, bleach, sunlight, and high temperatures or drying. Machine-washing clothes that have been contaminated with fluids will destroy Ebola virus. Ebola virus survives only a short time on surfaces that are in the sun or have dried. It can survive for a longer time on clothes or materials which have been stained with blood or other bodily fluids.
There is a risk of transmission of Ebola through contact with utensils or contaminated material in healthcare settings if the correct infection control procedures are not properly carried out.