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Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever

What is Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever?

Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (Ebola HF) is a severe, often-fatal viral disease affecting humans and nonhuman primates. The disease is caused by infection with Ebola virus. Together with Marburg disease virus, they belong to the same family called Filoviridae. The disease has appeared sporadically since its initial recognition in 1976. Confirmed cases of Ebola HF have been reported in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Uganda, and the Republic of the Congo.

The incubation period for Ebola HF ranges from 2 to 21 days. The onset of illness is abrupt and is characterised by fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients. The mortality rate can be up to 50 % - 90%.

How does it spread?

Like Marburg virus, Ebola, virus is believed to be transmitted from an unknown animal host to humans. Humans may spread the virus to others through extremely close contact with a patient and body fluid (blood, faeces, vomitus, urine, saliva, sweat, respiratory secretions). Close contact with a severely ill patient, during care at home or in hospital, and certain burial practices are common routes of infection. In hospital settings, transmission can occur through contact with objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

How can you prevent it?

There is no vaccine for the disease. The best way to prevent the disease is to:

  • Avoid unnecessary visit to affected areas.

  • Observe good personal and environmental hygiene. Frequent handwashing with soap.

  • Close contact with feverish or ill persons must be avoided.

  • Avoid contact with sick or dead animals especially primates.

  • Do not eat bushmeat of primates.

  • After returning from the affected area, travellers should monitor their health for 21 days and seek medical advice promptly if symptoms of fever, diarrhea, vomiting, rash or bleeding develop, and inform travel history.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for the disease. Patients must be managed in isolation facilities to prevent the spread of the infection. As close contact with a severely ill patient is a high risk factor for transmission, health care workers should put on protective gears and adopt strict infection control practice when caring for suspected patient.

 


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Last revision date: 10 October 2012