Ebola Virus


This Healthwork alert has been produced in response to the recent outbreak of Ebola cases in Africa.  The alert is for our clients particularly where they have employees who travel abroad.

Ebola virus disease is a viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) caused by several distinct families of viruses. The natural reservoir for Ebola virus is not known, but it has been found in animals including non-human primates and bats.

Following an incubation period of four to 16 days, illness presents with the sudden onset of fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, diarrhoea, vomiting and weakness. As the infection progresses, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, shortness of breath, confusion and haemorrhage can occur. This can lead to multi-organ failure, shock and death.

Most human infections result from direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions (such as vomit, urine and faeces) from an infected human. The highest risks of infection are associated with caring for infected patients, particularly in hospital settings and associated with unsafe burial practices.  Ebola has also been reported following contact with the tissues of infected animals such as primates and bats.

Implications for Travellers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) assess that the risk of a traveller becoming infected with the Ebola virus during a visit to the affected countries and developing disease after returning is very low, even if the visit includes travel to areas in which cases have been reported.

Public Health England (PHE) reaffirms their commitment to supporting the Ebola outbreak response and advises that the risk to tourists, visitors or expatriate residents in affected areas is considered very low if elementary precautions are followed.  The risk assessment for England remains very low.

Worldwide, more than thirty countries (including USA, Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Spain and Greece) have issued guidance to avoid unnecessary travel to the affected countries. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the whole of Liberia, except Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport.

The following preventive measures should eliminate the risk of getting infected:

  •  avoid direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of a patient or a corpse and with objects possibly contaminated
  •  carefully and frequently wash hands with soap and water (alcohol hand rub if soap isn't available)
  •  wear gloves if in potentially high risk situations
  •  avoid close contact with wild animals and consumption of ‘bush meat’
  •  avoid having unprotected sexual intercourse