Ebola virus disease

Ebola is an infectious disease caused by a virus (filovirus). It was first recognised in 1976 when two outbreaks were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the Ebola River, and in South Sudan.

Since then, sporadic outbreaks have been reported Central and West Africa. Major epidemics, with large case numbers requiring an international humanitarian effort have occurred in West Africa (2014-2016) and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2018 – 2019).

EVD is rare and UK Health Security Agency advises risk of Ebola infection is a negligible to very low risk to the United Kingdom (UK).

Ebola is spread by close, direct physical contact with infected body fluids: blood, faeces, saliva, semen, urine and vomit. Infected people can only spread the Ebola virus to other people when they have symptoms.

Infection causes a serious, often fatal haemorrhagic (bleeding) illness called Ebola virus disease (EVD). Symptoms usually begin suddenly and include fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, sore throat and weakness. Internal and external bleeding; blood in faeces, extensive bruising, bleeding gums, liver and kidney failure can also occur.

There is currently no licensed treatment, care is supportive and recovery depends on early care and treatment of symptoms. A number of vaccines and treatments are being developed.

Check our Country Information pages for destination specific news and outbreaks.

Prevention

UK travellers planning to visit areas with EVD outbreaks or reporting isolated cases should consider their trip plans carefully, in consultation with a travel health specialist.

All travellers to Ebola risk areas should:

  • avoid anyone with symptoms
  • avoid contact with blood and body fluids and any items that may have been contaminated with blood and body fluids, like clothes, bedding or medical equipment
  • avoid contact with animals, especially bats and non-human primates (monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees)
  • follow safer sex advice - always use condoms
  • do not eat, cook or prepare any type of raw or wild meat (bushmeat) or any meat from unknown sources
  • always wash and peel fruit and vegetables carefully
  • follow good food, water and personal hygiene advice, including careful, regular hand washing with soap and water (or alcohol gel if soap is unavailable)
  • if attending a funeral, mourners should avoid all contact with the deceased, their body fluids and their personal property

Some traditional burial rituals may play a part in the spread of Ebola. The World Health Organization has guidance on safe and dignified burials to help prevent Ebola transmission in these circumstances.

Aid workers and health professionals planning to undertake humanitarian work in areas where outbreaks or isolated EVD cases are reported should seek risk assessment advice and training form their employer/organisation prior to travel. They should also be familiar with UK Health Security Agency specific guidance: Ebola virus disease: information for humanitarian aid workers and the Ebola: returning workers scheme.

Travel to an Ebola affected area may restrict travel health insurance options. Travellers should discuss their plans with their travel insurance provider before they go.

UK travellers experiencing symptoms aboard should seek local medical advice as soon as possible.

Travellers who become unwell after returning to the UK should ring their GP for advice or call NHS111. It is important returning travellers provide details of any recent travel to their health professional so appropriate measures and testing can be carried out. It's extremely unlikely that Ebola will be the cause of fever or other symptoms, but other serious conditions such as malaria or typhoid may be a risk.

More detailed information on Ebola virus disease: clinical management and guidance is available on the UK Health Security Agency website.

Resources

First published : 22 November 2018 Last updated : 25 October 2022

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Recent News on Ebola virus disease

Ebola: Uganda outbreak declared over

Health authorities have declared the end of the outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) caused by Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV)

Updated: 13 January 2023


Recent Ebola virus disease Outbreaks

11 January 2023

Ebola in Uganda

As of 11 January 2023, Uganda has declared that the Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan ebolavirus has ended. This is less than four months after the first case was confirmed on 20 September 2022. Although this outbreak has been declared over, health authorities are maintaining surveillance and are ready to respond quickly to any flare-ups, with neighbouring countries remaining on alert.

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30 September 2022

Ebola in DRC

On 27 September 2022, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared the end of the Ebola virus disease outbreak that affected Beni health zone, North Kivu province. In accordance with WHO recommendations, the declaration was made 42 days (twice the maximum incubation period) after the burial of the last and only confirmed case.

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05 July 2022

Ebola in DRC

On 4 July 2022, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared the end of the Ebola virus disease outbreak that affected Mbandaka and Wangata health zones, Equateur province. In accordance with WHO recommendations, the declaration was made 42 days (twice the maximum incubation period) after the burial of the last confirmed case who died in the community.

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17 December 2021

Ebola in DRC

On 16 December 2021, the Ebola virus disease outbreak that emerged on 8 October 2021 was declared over, 42 days after the second negative test of the last confirmed case. The declaration was made in accordance with WHO recommendations.

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