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Ebola virus disease (Ebola) is a severe illness caused by the Ebola virus. It affects people and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). Early stages of the disease are characterized by flu-like symptoms, which can progress to bleeding, organ dysfunction and death. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person or animal. The Ebola virus is not native to Canada, and there have never been any cases of Ebola in this country. Outbreaks have been documented in several African countries since the virus’ discovery in 1976.

In an Ebola outbreak, the first human case usually occurs through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth with the blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of an infected animal.

  • The animal reservoir of the Ebola virus has not yet been confirmed, but bats are considered likely.
  • Ebola virus has been transmitted through handling and/or ingestion of fruit bats, non-human primates or other animals, like forest duikers (an African antelope), that are infected with Ebola.

Once one person is infected with the virus, Ebola can spread from person-to-person through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth with:

  • A symptomatic person’s blood or body fluids, for example: blood, semen, saliva, urine, vomit and feces
  • Objects that have become contaminated by the blood or body fluids of an infected person, for example: needles and other medical equipment, bed linen or soiled clothing.
  • The body of someone who has died from Ebola

Ebola cannot be spread:

  • In the air
  • Through food or water
  • Via an infected person who does not have symptoms

Signs and symptoms generally appear 8 to 10 days after exposure but can appear anytime from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Initial signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain

More severe symptoms may appear 3-10 days after initial symptom onset. These include:

  • Severe headache
  • Rash
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Redness of the eyes

7-12 days after initial symptom onset, infected patients may start to recover, or progress to even more severe symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from gums, nose, injection sites and/or intestines (occurs in 50% of cases)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shock
  • Multi-organ dysfunction
  • Death

Those at higher risk of Ebola exposure include:

  • Healthcare workers working with infected patients
  • Family members caring for an infected person
  • Laboratory workers working with the Ebola virus

If you have come in direct contact with a patient infected with Ebola, or with objects that have become contaminated by a patient with Ebola, you should call 811 who will direct you to your local public health unit.  You will be asked to monitor your temperature and symptoms for 21 days following your last contact. If you are concerned that you may have Ebola, please see "What are the signs and symptoms of Ebola?"  and contact 811 or your health care provider.


Blood samples from patients are tested to diagnose Ebola. 


There is no specific treatment for Ebola; patients are provided with supportive care. This can include:

  • Balancing fluids and electrolytes
  • Maintaining vital signs
  • Treating any complicating infections

Experimental drugs and experimental vaccines are being evaluated but are not yet approved for use in humans.

The best way to prevent Ebola infection is to avoid contact with infected people or animals or surfaces soiled with their blood or body fluids.

People in close contact with people with Ebola must take precautions to prevent infection. Precautions include:

  • Wearing protective equipment, for example: gloves, goggles, mask, gown
  • Following infection control procedures such as equipment sterilization, appropriate cleaning and disposal of soiled items

There have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of spreading Ebola to people or other animals. Even in areas of Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.
There have never been any cases of Ebola in animals in British Columbia or elsewhere in Canada. The likelihood of a pet being exposed to Ebola virus in Canada is very low. To be exposed, they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a person or another animal ill with Ebola. 

In the unlikely event that a pet in BC is exposed to Ebola virus, veterinary and public health practitioners would investigate the situation and recommend actions to minimise risk.

Refer to the HealthLink BC Ebola Virus Disease page for more information on what to do if you have travelled to countries with a travel advisory related to Ebola, or if you have been in close contact with someone who was diagnosed with Ebola.

SOURCE: Ebola ( )
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