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Ebola is a severe, often fatal disease found in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees).  It is caused by one of five species of Ebola virus that are found in several African countries. Experts believe that bats are the most likely natural host for the virus and may spread it to other animals, which in turn can spread it to humans.

In the United States, the risk of exposure to Ebola is considered to be very low. Casual travelers to Africa are not at risk for Ebola virus disease just from traveling in affected areas.

Symptoms of Ebola usually start 8 to 10 days after exposure to an Ebola patient’s body fluids. However, symptoms can begin anytime from 2 to 21 days after exposure.

Symptoms include:

  • fever (higher that 101.5 F)
  • severe headache
  • muscle pain
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal (stomach) pain
  • lack of appetite
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • unexplained bleeding inside or outside the body

There is no vaccine to protect against Ebola.

An infected person can spread the disease through:

  • Direct contact with the blood or body fluids (saliva, stool, vomit, urine) by an infected person
  • Contaminated objects with infected body fluids

Ebola is not a respiratory disease, so it is not spread through the air. People with Ebola virus infection cannot spread the infection until they begin to get sick with the symptoms.

You can help protect yourself by washing your hands often with soap and water especially after using the restroom.

Treatment for Ebola includes intravenous fluids, oxygen and medications to maintain blood pressure.

Persons who are concerned about their symptoms should contact their health care provider.