Ebola Virus Disease

The sources for the information in this document are the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Emergency Management.  For additional information about Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and Florida’s preparedness efforts, please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/ebola and www.floridadisaster.org.

What is Ebola Virus Disease?
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a severe type of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees). EVD is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. The first Ebolavirus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.

How is Ebola transmitted?
When an infection does occur in humans, there are several ways in which the virus can be transmitted to others. These include:

  • Direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected ill person
  • Exposure to objects (such as needles) contaminated with infected secretions
  • Participation in funeral rites that includes direct exposure (contact) to human remains in the geographic area where the outbreak is occurring

EVD is often spread through close contact with infectious secretions when caring for ill persons. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is currently experiencing symptoms or with their bodily secretions.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?
The initial symptoms of EVD are very similar to those of influenza. However, at this time, a Floridian must have been in direct contact with an individual diagnosed with Ebola in order to contract the disease. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and lack of appetite. Some patients may experience the following: rash, red eyes, hiccups, cough, sore throat, chest pain, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and bleeding inside and outside of the body. Severe forms of the disease may include hemorrhagic symptoms and multi-organ dysfunction, leading to shock and death. The most common occurrence of signs of infection is 8 to 10 days, while symptoms may appear 2 to 21 days after exposure.

What is the treatment for Ebola?
Treatment is currently limited to supportive therapy, consisting of balancing the patient’s fluids, maintaining their oxygen and blood pressure levels, and treating any complicating infections. Timely treatment of EVD is challenging due to the difficulty of diagnosing a patient in the early stages of infection. If a person has early symptoms of EVD and there is reason to believe EVD should be considered (such as recent travel to West Africa), the patient should be isolated promptly and public health professionals notified.

How do Ebola outbreaks occur?
In outbreak settings, Ebola virus is typically initially spread to humans after contact with infected wildlife such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, and is then spread person-to-person through direct contact with bodily fluids. The incubation period is usually 8-10 days (ranges from 2-21 days). Patients can transmit the virus through all stages of the illness, including postmortem (after death), if a person comes in contact with the body during funeral preparations.

During outbreaks of EVD, those at highest risk include health care workers and the family and friends of an infected individual. Precautions should be taken to limit virus transmission through adequate sterilization of instruments and wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and gloves.

What can be done to reduce the risk of acquiring Ebola?
Early recognition and identification of patients with potential Ebola is critical. When cases of Ebola appear, healthcare workers must be able to recognize a case of EVD and employ practical isolation precautions or barrier nursing techniques to avoid contact with the blood or secretions of an infected patient. Such precautions include wearing an impermeable gown, eye ware, mask and gloves. If a patient with EVD dies, it is equally important that direct contact with the body of the deceased patient be prevented.

A few established primary prevention measures include:

  • Patient placement
  • Healthcare provider protection
  • Environmental infection control

What is being done to prepare for the possible spread of Ebola to Florida?
The state of Florida is prepared to identify and treat patients who may have Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). In the event that a patient with EVD is diagnosed in Florida, the Florida Department of Health will collaborate with healthcare partners to ensure appropriate patient care, protocols for isolation, infection control and the assessment of risk to relevant individuals. The county health department in each of Florida’s 67 counties has regular communication and interaction with hospitals, medical providers and laboratories to ensure that appropriate reporting and public health action can be taken when necessary.

Looking forward, the Florida Department of Health and Florida Division of Emergency Management will continue to collaborate to ensure the health and safety of all Floridians. The Division of Emergency Management activated the state’s Joint Information Center, allowing state officials to share accurate, timely information with the public. The first priority is to protect the health of Florida’s residents and visitors, and ensure the safety of Florida’s families.

Additional Resources
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): for general Ebola information http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html and tips for travelers http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/qa.html

The World Health Organization (WHO): http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/ andhttp://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/en/.