Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever - What You Need to Know about Ebola


A person infected with Ebola can't spread the disease until symptoms appear

The time from exposure to when signs or symptoms of the disease appear (the incubation period) is 2 to 21 days, but the average time is 8 to 10 days. Signs of Ebola include fever (higher than 101.5°F) and symptoms like severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of Ebola include

  • Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.

Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient's immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years and they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. People who recover from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex or use condoms for 3 months.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids

Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with

  • Blood and body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.
  • Objects (like needles) that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a peron sick with Ebola.
  • Infected animals
  • Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
  • Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. People who recover from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex or use condoms for 3 months.

Ebola is NOT spread through the air, water or food.

Protect yourself against Ebola

There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.

  • DO wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do NOT touch the blood or body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of people who are sick.
  • Do NOT handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person's blood or body fluids, like clothes, bedding, needles, or medical equipment.
  • Do NOT touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola.

Prevention

There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola.

If you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola outbreak, make sure to do the following:

  • Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
  • After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.

Healthcare workers who may be exposed to people with Ebola should follow these steps:

  • Wear protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns, and eye protection.
  • Practice proper infection control and sterilization measures. For more information, see "Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers in the African Health Care Setting".
  • Isolate patients with Ebola from other patients.
  • Avoid direct contact with the bodies of people who have died from Ebola.
  • Notify health officials if you have had direct contact with the blood or body fluids, such as but not limited to, feces, saliva, urine, vomit, and semen of a person who is sick with Ebola. The virus can enter the body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth.

What to do if you are exposed to Ebola

If you have traveled to an area with an Ebola outbreak or had close contact with a person sick with Ebola, you may be at risk if you

  • Had direct contact with blood or body fluids or items that came into contact with blood or body fluids from a person with Ebola.
  • Touched bats or nonhuman primates (like apes or monkeys) or blood, fluids, or raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Went into hospitals where Ebola patients were being treated and had close contact with the patients.
  • Touched the body of a person who died of Ebola.

You should check for signs and symptoms of Ebola for 21 days

  • Take your temperature every morning and evening.
  • Watch for other Ebola symptoms, like severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
  • Call your doctor even if you do not have symptoms. The doctor can evaluate your exposure level and any symptoms and consult with public health authorities to determine if actions are needed.

During the time that you are watching for signs and symptoms, you can continue your normal activities, including going to work.

If you get sick after you come back from an area with an Ebola outbreak

  • Get medical care right away if you have a fever (higher than 101.5°F), severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor about your recent travel to West Africa or contact with a person who was sick with Ebola and your symptoms BEFORE you go to the doctor's office or emergency room. Calling before you go to your doctor's office or emergency room will help the doctor or emergency room care for you and protect other people who may be in the office or emergency room.
  • If you feel sick, don't take any chances, go to the nearest hospital right away.