Ebola: The facts
Ebola is a severe, infectious often-fatal disease caused by infection with Ebola virus. Ebola virus does not transmit through the air as influenza does.
After two days and up to 21 days following exposure to the virus, the disease may start suddenly with fever, muscle aches, weakness, headache and sore throat. The next stage of the disease is characterised by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and failure of the liver and kidneys. Some patients also have heavy internal and external bleeding and multi-organ failure.
How is it spread?
It is not always clear how the virus first appears in humans. Usually the first person gets infected through contact with an infected animal.
Ebola is transmitted by:
Direct exposure to the blood, bodily fluids, of a dead or living infected person or animal
Injury from needles and other sharp implements contaminated by the blood of a dead or living infected person or animal
Direct exposure through broken skin or mucous membranes (eg in the mouth, under eyelids) to environments/items that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient's infectious fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen, or used needles.
Contact with bodily fluids includes unprotected sexual contact with patients up to seven weeks after they have recovered.
What is the incubation period?
The incubation period varies between two to 21 days.
Can the virus survive in the environment?
Ebola viruses can survive in liquid or dried material for a number of days (this is a greater risk in healthcare facilities than in the community unless the area has been contaminated by a person with Ebola virus disease).
What activities are not dangerous?
If you are in an affected country, it is important to bear in mind that Ebola is not transmitted by:
Casual contact in public places with people that do not appear to be sick
Swimming in a swimming pool
Ebola can not be transmitted by mosquito bites