Ebola hemorrhagic fever (also known as Ebola) is a contagious illness caused by an infection with the Ebola virus. It is often fatal in humans, monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees. The virus was first recognized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1976. No case of this illness in humans has ever been reported in the United States. There is no cure; treatment usually consists of providing supportive care while the body fights the infection.

What Is Ebola?

Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola) is a very contagious illness that is often fatal in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). It has appeared sporadically since it was first recognized in 1976.

What Causes It?

The cause of Ebola is an infection with the Ebola virus (see Ebola Pictures). The virus got its name from a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in Africa, where it was first recognized.
The virus is one of two members of a family of RNA viruses called Filoviridae. There are four identified subtypes of Ebola virus. Three of the four have caused disease in humans:
  • Ebola-Zaire
  • Ebola-Sudan
  • Ebola-Ivory Coast.
The fourth Ebola virus subtype, Ebola-Reston, has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.
(Click Causes of Ebola for more information on what causes this disease.)


Ebola outbreaks typically appear sporadically. Confirmed cases of Ebola virus infections have been reported in:
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • The Ivory Coast
  • Gabon
  • Sudan
  • Uganda.


Background on Ebola

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