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Ebola (Ebola virus disease, EVD or Ebola haemorrhagic fever, EHF) is a disease of humans and other primates caused by Ebola viruses. The disease was first identified in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and Republic of Congo. 2,387 cases were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) through 2012[71]. The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus primarily affects 3 countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Over 22,800 cases and 9,000 deaths have been reported globally by the World Health Organisation (11 February 2015)[72].

How do you get it?
The virus spreads by direct contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected human or other animal. Infection with the virus may also occur by direct contact with a recently contaminated item or surface. Fruit bats are believed to be the normal carrier in the wild, where the virus has no adverse effects in the host. Humans become infected by contact with the bats or with a living or dead animal or person that has been infected. In person to person contact, the virus may also be spread by semen or breast milk for several weeks to months after recovery.

Who is at risk?
Ebola can infect anyone who comes into contact with the virus. 

Signs and symptoms
Symptoms typically start between two days and three weeks after contracting the virus and include fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches. This is usually followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and rash, along with impaired liver and kidney function, while some people start to bleed internally and externally [73]. Death may occur, often due to shock, and typically occurs six to sixteen days after symptoms appear. 

Supportive care improves outcomes but the disease has a high fatality rate, killing between 25- 90% of those infected, with an average mortality rate of 50% [73]

No specific treatment for the virus is available at present although a number of pharmaceutical products are in development. Efforts to help those who are infected are supportive, and include giving either oral rehydration therapy or intravenous fluids as well as treating symptoms. 

Recommendations for Travellers
A vaccine is not currently available although efforts to develop one are ongoing. The risk to a traveller is extremely low outside of endemic regions and relatively low even within high risk areas, although it advisable to avoid these areas entirely during outbreaks of the disease. Travellers should avoid contact with symptomatic patients and their bodily fluids, and avoid contact with corpses and bodily fluids from deceased patients. Similarly, it is advised to avoid close contacts with wild animals, alive or dead, and avoid consumption of "bushmeat".

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Ebola. Here’s the point...

With a high mortality rate and no specific vaccine or treatment available at present, prevention of infection is extremely important.

In August 2014, a confirmed case of Ebola was in a UK healthcare worker who was repatriated to the UK from Sierra Leone for treatment, and has since recovered [74].

On 29 December 2014, a case of Ebola was reported in a UK healthcare worker on their returning from volunteering at an Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone. This was the first imported case of Ebola to be detected in the United Kingdom [75] .