What causes Ebola?

Ebola fever is caused by a family of 5 closely related viruses. Experts believe that outbreaks of the illness begin when people come into contact with infected animals. Ebola then spreads from person to person through blood, organs or bodily fluids of infected people, or via surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. To get the infection, a person must come into direct contact with the virus--that is, the virus must touch the person's broken skin or mucous membranes.

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. There are five identified Ebolavirus species, four of which are known to cause disease in humans: Zaire virus (Zaire ebolavirus); Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus); TaÏ Forest virus (TaÏ Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d'Ivoire ebolavirus); and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus). The fifth, Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus), has caused disease in nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) but not in humans. It is believed that the virus is animal-borne and that bats are the most likely reservoir.  Ebola viruses are found in several African countries, with outbreaks occurring sporadically since the virus was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976.

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What is Ebola?
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.