What Is Ebola & What Are the Symptoms?

Safeguarding against Ebola
Safeguarding against Ebola (Image: ninuns/iStock/Getty Images)

Ebola is a virus that causes a deadly and extremely contagious illness previously called Ebola hemorrhagic fever. The disease affects humans as well as primates.


The disease was first discovered in the Congo in 1976 near the Ebola River. Two other strains of Ebola found to be deadly in humans were discovered in the Ivory Coast and Sudan, and epidemics have spread throughout western Africa. While there has not been an outbreak in the U.S., patients with the disease have sought treatment in the U.S.

In September 2014, the first confirmed travel-associated case of Ebola was diagnosed in the U.S.


The virus is transmitted though direct contact with bodily secretions including blood, vomit, urine or saliva. It is also spread via objects infected with the virus like needles and syringes.

Due to the bleeding that occurs in later stages of infection, the virus often becomes increasingly contagious and remains so even after a victim has died.


On average, symptoms of Ebola usually set 8 to 10 days after exposure, however, they may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus.

This illness shares the symptoms of many serious illnesses, such as sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness and stomach pain. During advanced stages of the disease, external and internal bleeding often occur, often at massive and deadly rates.


As of yet, there is no known treatment that can kill the virus. Treatment plans are instead prescribed to control symptoms, such as intravenous fluids and breathing devices, to prevent dehydration and to aid troubled breathing as well as medications to control blood pressure and other vitals.

Those who do recover from the virus develop antibodies to Ebola that last for at least 10 years.


There is no known cure for the Ebola virus; however, researchers are currently working on vaccines, and successful trials have been achieved in experiments with monkeys. Mortality rates have ranged between 50 to 90 percent of victims in a given outbreak.

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