Bookmark this page

View Printer Friendly PDF Printer Friendly PDF

Facts About...


What is it?

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe disease that causes haemorrhagic fever in humans and animals. Diseases that cause haemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola, are often fatal as they affect the body's vascular system (how blood moves through the body). This can lead to significant internal bleeding and organ failure.
The current outbreak in West Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined.

As long as precautions are taken, there is low risk of contracting EVD in a country where the disease is present. For the most current updates on the outbreak in West Africa, go to World Health Organization’s website at,

How is it spread?

The Ebola virus can enter the body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes (e.g., mouth, eyes, nose). It can spread through contact with blood or body fluids (feces, saliva, urine, vomit, and semen) or tissues of infected persons, contact with medical equipment, such as needles that have been contaminated with infected blood or body fluids, and contact with infected animals.

Exposure can occur in health care settings when staff do not wear appropriate protective equipment such as masks, eye protection gowns and gloves, or do not follow appropriate infection control practices. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or food.

What do I look for?

Symptoms usually occur anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Initial symptoms include sore throat, fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, weakness, and stomach pains. Additional symptoms include rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and haemorrhaging (bleeding from inside and outside the body).

What to do if you become ill?

  • Call a health care provider immediately if you or someone you are caring for is showing some of the above symptoms and if you or anyone in your household has recently travelled to an area where there is a confirmed Ebola virus outbreak.
  • Describe the symptoms and mention any recent travel over the phone before the appointment, so that health care providers can arrange for a safe visit without potentially exposing themselves or others to the virus.
  • To prevent any further transmission of your illness, limit contact with others and follow the advice of your health care provider.

How is it treated?

There is currently no specific licensed treatment or vaccine for EVD. Patients are treated for their symptoms.

How can I protect myself?

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

  • Avoid non-essential travel to areas affected by EVD.
  • Practice careful hand hygiene, for example, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often.
  • 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 or suspected to have died from EVD.
  • Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The Canadian embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
  • After you return, call Durham Region Health Department to assist you in monitoring your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of EVD.
  • If contact with infected blood or body fluid is expected, personal protective equipment (i.e., masks, eye protection, face shield, gowns and gloves) must be worn.
  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, bush meat (wild and game meat), and raw meat prepared from these animals.

Sources: Public Health Agency of Canada, World Health Organization, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

More information can be obtained from

Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line
905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

January 21, 2015