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Ebola Virus Disease



  • Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a rare infection caused by the Ebola virus. It is a severe, often deadly illness that requires medical care. The virus is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids such as saliva, blood, urine, vomit, semen, or bowel movements.
  • Treatment may include fluids to treat or prevent fluid loss, and medicines, oxygen, blood transfusions, dialysis, and staying in a separate hospital room away from other people (isolation).
  • To help prevent EVD, your child should avoid contact with people who have the disease. Make sure that you and your child wash your hands often and especially after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, or nose blowing, and before eating or touching the eyes.
  • If your child has symptoms, see a healthcare provider right away. Your child needs to avoid close contact with others so that your child does not spread the disease.


What is Ebola virus disease?

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a rare infection caused by the Ebola virus. EVD usually starts with fever, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can quickly lead to severe illness, uncontrolled bleeding, and organ failure. EVD is a severe, often deadly illness that requires medical care.

The Ebola virus has been found in several countries in Africa. EVD may spread to other countries if people are infected and then travel when they are sick.

What is the cause?

Both animals and humans can get infected with the Ebola virus. Ebola is not spread through the air or in water. The virus is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids such as:

  • Having close contact, such as sharing eating utensils, kissing, or sexual contact, with someone who has EVD
  • Touching body fluids, such as saliva, blood, urine, vomit, or bowel movements, of someone who is sick or who has died
  • Getting droplets of infected body fluids into your nose, eyes, or mouth
  • Eating raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal

A person cannot spread the virus until having symptoms.

Your child is not at risk for catching the virus unless your child comes in direct contact with someone who has EVD or eats the raw meat of an infected animal. The risk for getting EVD increases if your child travels to an area where the virus is present or cares for someone infected with the virus.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can start 2 to 21 days after a child comes in contact with someone who is sick. Most people will have symptoms within 8 to 10 days. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Feeling very tired
  • Severe headache
  • Pain in the belly, muscles, joints, or chest
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

EVD can become severe very quickly and cause:

  • Dehydration, which means losing too much fluid from the body
  • Unexplained bleeding from the nose, eyes, mouth, rectum, or vagina
  • Confusion or coma
  • Trouble breathing

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your provider needs to know your child’s recent travel history and if your child has been around someone sick or infected with EVD.

If your child’s provider suspects EVD, your child will have tests, such as samples of fluid from the nose or throat, blood, urine, or bowel movements, to check for the virus or antibodies.

If your child may have EVD, the healthcare provider will report it to the public health department, and your child may need to stay in the hospital. This can help prevent new infections.

How is it treated?

There are no medicines proven to cure EVD. Vaccines and antiviral medicines to prevent or treat EVD are being developed and tested. Treatment can help control symptoms. If your child has EVD, your child will need to stay in the hospital. This also helps prevent spreading the virus to other people. Treatment may include:

  • Oral rehydration solution (a drink that replaces fluids and minerals) or IV fluids to treat or prevent fluid loss
  • Medicines to:
    • Help keep your child’s blood pressure at the right level
    • Decrease fever or pain
    • Reduce nausea and vomiting
    • Prevent or treat other infections
    • Decrease anxiety
  • Oxygen, or if your child has severe breathing problems, a tube in the throat and a machine to help with breathing
  • A blood transfusion to control bleeding or replace red blood cells that carry oxygen and nutrition to the body
  • Dialysis, which uses a machine to help your child’s kidneys remove waste products and extra fluid from the blood

While in the hospital, your child will stay in a separate room and away from other people (isolation). The child will not be able to leave the room until healthcare providers say it’s OK. Everyone who cares for your child will need to follow strict rules such as wearing gloves, gowns, eye protection and a mask or respirator when they care for your child. A respirator is a kind of mask that can protect people from breathing in tiny liquid droplets. Your child may not be able to have visitors or may have limited contact with them.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • How to take care of your child when your child goes home
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I prevent the spread of EVD?

There is no vaccine to prevent EVD right now. Vaccines are being developed and tested and may be available in the future. If possible, keep your child away from places where EVD is present. Get travel updates if your child plans to travel. To reduce the risk of getting EVD, your child should also:

  • Wash hands often and especially after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, or nose blowing, and before eating or touching the eyes.
  • Avoid hospitals or health centers that care for large numbers of people with EVD if in West Africa. You can get a list of these hospitals from the US Embassy or Consulate.
  • Avoid contact with people who have EVD.
  • Use soap and water to wash hands and any exposed skin that came into contact with body fluids right away. Your child should also use water or an eyewash solution to rinse the nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Stay away from funerals or burials of people who died from EVD.
  • Avoid animals such as African fruit bats, antelope, porcupines, monkeys, or apes if in West Africa. Your child should not touch sick or dead animals without gloves. Your child should not eat raw or undercooked meat that came from these animals.
  • To prevent sexually transmitted disease, advise your older child not to have sex, or to use latex or polyurethane condoms the right way during foreplay and every time he or she has vaginal, oral, or anal sex. EVD virus has been shown to live in a male’s semen longer than in other body fluids. If a male has been diagnosed or has had symptoms of EVD, he should continue to use condoms for at least 12 months from the start of symptoms or until his semen tests negative twice for Ebola virus.

If your child has been to an area where EVD is present or had close contact with someone who has EVD, your child may have been exposed to the virus. You should:

  • Tell your healthcare provider that your child may have been exposed. You and your child’s provider should watch for symptoms, such as fever, headache, or body aches, for 21 days.

If your child develops symptoms:

  • Make sure to see a healthcare provider right away. Ensure that your child does not have close contact with others. Your child should not go to work, school, or public areas, and not use public transportation. Your child should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items with other people. After using these items, they must be washed thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  • Call ahead before visiting your healthcare provider and tell the office staff that your child may have EVD.
  • Make sure that your child wears a facemask when in the same room with other people and when visiting a healthcare provider.

For more information, contact:

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-03-18
Last reviewed: 2019-02-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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