Ebola Virus Disease

Ebola Virus Disease is a serious infectious disease spread between humans from person to person. Infection is transmitted by direct or indirect contact with the blood, body fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people, but only when they show symptoms. Ebola cannot be transmitted by air. The disease usually has a high mortality rate but in the current Ebola outbreak the rate ranges between 55% and 60%.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire). Since its detection, several Ebola outbreaks have occurred in different parts of Africa.

Key facts
  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare but severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks.
  • Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, infection prevention and control practices, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe and dignified burials and social mobilization.
  • Vaccines to protect against Ebola have been developed and have been used to help control the spread of Ebola outbreaks in Guinea and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. Two monoclonal antibodies (Inmazeb and Ebanga) were approved for the treatment of Zaire ebolavirus (Ebolavirus) infection in adults and children by the US Food and Drug Administration in late 2020.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women with Ebola should be offered early supportive care. Likewise vaccine prevention and experimental treatment should be offered under the same conditions as for non-pregnant population.
PAHO Response

Given the possibility that other imported cases will be introduced into the Americas, and to prevent further spread of the virus, PAHO is working with countries in the region to strengthen their preparedness to detect and quickly respond to a possible imported case of Ebola. Thus far, there have been two imported cases and two cases of local transmission of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the United States. There have been no cases of EVD in any other country in the Americas. The Director of PAHO created a task force and an operational working group that advises and supports the implementation of the International Emergency Committee of the International Health Regulations (IHR) recommendations and coordinates the response to the possible introduction of Ebola virus disease in the Americas.

Experts from the Organization conducted missions to countries in the region to assist in this preparation. PAHO/WHO also supports the response in West African countries affected by the outbreak of this disease with the deployment of officers. The organization also assists its Member States in their national deployments of professionals and facilitates cooperation among countries.