Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is caused by exposure to the Ebola virus, and is spread when an infected person’s body fluids come in contact with another individual’s mucous membranes, breaks in the skin or by sharps-related injuries. EVD is not transmitted through the air unless there is exposure to body fluid droplets from an infected person (e.g., by coughing, sneezing or spitting). EVD is not transmitted from persons who don’t have symptoms of infection.
EVD usually starts with a sudden onset of fever along with other symptoms, including chills, weakness, abdominal pain, joint muscle aches, headache, lack of appetite and body aches. Vomiting and diarrhea are common. In severe cases, internal and external bleeding may occur. These symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to the virus, although eight to 10 days is most common. Some of the symptoms of EVD are similar to those of other infections that are common in West Africa, such as malaria and diarrheal illnesses.
There currently are no FDA-approved medications specific for treating Ebola virus infection. The main way EVD is treated is through supportive care. This means providing excellent medical and nursing care, including monitoring and replacing of fluids and electrolytes, as well as transfusions as necessary.