Ebola is an often severe infection with fever and bleeding (haemorrhagic fever). The disease is caused by the Ebola virus, which is one of the most dangerous pathogens in the world. There are currently no effective drugs or vaccines against it. Ebola is deadly in many cases. Read all important information about Ebola here - symptoms, treatment and prognosis.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in medical reports or on incapacity certificates. A98ArtikelübersichtEbola

  • description
  • symptoms
  • Causes and risk factors
  • Examinations and diagnosis
  • treatment
  • Disease course and prognosis

Ebola: description

Ebola (Ebola fever) is a serious, reportable virus infection that counts among the so-called hemorrhagic fevers. These are infectious diseases that are associated with fever and increased bleeding tendency (including internal bleeding). Risk area is mainly Equatorial Africa, where medical care is often insufficient. To date, there are no uniform standards for the treatment of Ebola. Also a vaccine does not exist so far.

The first infection with the Ebola virus was described in the 1970s in Sudan and the Congo. Since then there have been epidemics again and again. Most recently, a major epidemic broke out in Guinea in February 2014. The disease has been curbed in the past mostly by strict isolation of sufferers, thereby preventing major Ebola epidemics. In addition, the high mortality limits the spread. Death often occurs after just a few days.

A virus very similar to the Ebola virus is the Marburg virus, also a hemorrhagic fever. Both viruses belong to the family of filoviruses. They cause similar diseases that are not clearly distinguishable.

Due to the great danger of Ebola, the pathogen is discussed as a possible warfare agent. But there are so far no indications. An attempt by the Japanese Aum sect to use Ebola viruses for terrorist attacks in Japan failed.

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Ebola: symptoms

It takes about two to 21 days between the infection and the outbreak of Ebola. Symptoms include headache and body aches, high fever, conjunctivitis, nausea and rash. In addition, kidney and liver function may be disturbed. In the blood test, decreased numbers of white blood cells and platelets. The fever can subside in the meantime. In this case, however, the disease often takes on a more severe course later.

Just a few days after the onset of the disease, severe internal and external haemorrhages, especially those from the mucous membranes, can occur. In addition to the eye and the gastrointestinal tract of other organs can be affected.

This disease is not specific to Ebola. Fever, bleeding and organ damage also occur in other serious infections. This makes it difficult for doctors to make an accurate diagnosis in the beginning.

In the course of Ebola, various organs often fail. An inflammation of the brain may additionally occur and further worsen the prognosis. The serious illnesses are similar to a septic shock and can be fatal. Cause of death is often heart failure.

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Ebola: causes and risk factors

The disease is caused by the Ebola virus, of which five strains are known. Three of these virus strains have caused major outbreaks in humans.

Contagion from animal to human

Through close contact with infected animals, the Ebola virus is transmitted to humans. It is assumed that fruit bats form the natural reservoir of the pathogen; but this is not guaranteed. Also of other infected animals, especially monkeys and pigs, is a danger of infection. For this reason, sick animals should be quarantined as soon as possible. The carcasses of dead animals must be carefully disposed of. Raw meat of these animals should not be consumed.

Unlike many other tropical infections, transmission of the Ebola virus through mosquito bites is not yet known.

Contagion from person to person

The infection from person to person usually takes place only through close contact. In rare cases, the Ebola virus can also be transmitted by cough (droplet infection). Diseased persons are contagious as long as there is a fever. Infections during the incubation period (the phase between the infection with the pathogen and the onset of first symptoms) have not been reported so far.

Especially relatives and caregivers of Ebola patients are at high risk of getting infected too. In an outbreak in Uganda in 2000, 60 percent of nursing staff were infected with the virus. Therefore, Ebola patients need to be strictly isolated. All physical contact and sharing of items such as cutlery should be avoided. People who are in very close physical contact with the patient may also be isolated. Body temperature should definitely be checked regularly with each contact person. The greatest risk of infection is statistically seen before the isolation and before the outbreak of Ebola.

Special care should also be taken when dealing with the deceased and at funerals. The same is true after a surviving Ebola infection: even 61 days after the disease died down, the virus could still be detected in seminal fluid.

Risk of infection when traveling in Ebola areas

According to experts, there is usually no increased risk of infection for travelers to areas where Ebola occurs (especially tropical rainforests of Central Africa). Only those who had close contact with infected persons are highly endangered. Nevertheless, all tourists should inform themselves before departure about the current health situation in the region.

Ebola is notifiable

Ebola early warning systems are essential to prevent or contain major outbreaks. In Germany, even the suspicion of an Ebola infection must be reported by the attending physician to the Robert Koch Institute.

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Ebola: examinations and diagnosis

Especially in the early disease phase, the distinction between Ebola and other diseases such as yellow fever, Lassa fever, dengue fever or even malaria difficult. If suspected, patients must be isolated early. Samples are taken which are examined for the Ebola virus. The pathogen can be detected above all in the blood, but also in the skin. Antibodies to the virus usually form only later in the disease.

Only specialized laboratories of the highest level of safety are allowed to work with the Ebola virus and to examine samples from patients suspected of having Ebola. Such special laboratories are among others in Munich, Hamburg and Berlin.

If Ebola is suspected, the blood values ​​are also closely monitored. In addition, there will be close monitoring of whether bleeding or organ function is impaired.