Understanding Ebola

Ebola virus formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a rare but severe and often fatal illness in humans transmitted through direct contact with wild animals. It was first detected in Africa in 1976.

Ebola gets its name from the Ebola River, which is near one of the villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) where the disease first appeared.

How it is spread

The virus is transmitted among humans through close and direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, faeces and vomit.

Ebola tends to spread quickly through families and among friends as they are exposed to infectious secretions when caring for an ill individual. The virus can also spread quickly within healthcare settings for the same reason.

Consumption of game meat is considered the source of Ebola virus outbreak in African countries bordering the Equator, mostly in Congo where gorillas, chimpanzees, baboons, bats, porcupines and monkeys are killed to provide bush meat.


Initially, Ebola can feel like the flu or other illnesses. Symptoms begin to show 2 to 21 days after infection and usually include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Weakness
  • Stomach pain
  • Lack of appetite


There is no known cure at the moment but several vaccines are being tested. However, none is available for clinical use.


  • Ensuring all healthcare workers wear protective clothing (such as masks, gowns, and gloves) while handling patients.
  • Implementing infection-control measures, such as complete equipment sterilization, proper disposal of medical waste and routine use of disinfectant.
  • Isolation of Ebola patients from contact with unprotected persons.
  • Avoid traveling to areas where there have been confirmed cases of Ebola.


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