Ebola Home > What Is the Ebola Virus?

The Ebola virus causes a disease of the same name. The exact origin, locations, and natural habitat of the virus remain unknown; however, based on available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the organism is animal-borne. The Ebola virus is normally maintained in an animal host that is native to the African continent.

Understanding the Ebola Virus

Ebola virus is a type of RNA virus that causes the disease known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever (also called just Ebola).
 

How Did the Ebola Virus Get Its Name?

The virus got its name from a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in Africa, where it was first recognized.
 

Subtypes

Ebola is one of two members of a family of RNA viruses called Filoviridae. There are four identified subtypes of the virus. Three of the four have caused disease in humans:
 
  • Ebola-Ivory Coast
  • Ebola-Sudan
  • Ebola-Zaire.
     
The fourth subtype, Ebola-Reston, has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.
 

Where Does the Ebola Virus Live?

The exact origin, locations, and natural habitat (known as the natural reservoir) of Ebola virus remain unknown; however, on the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is zoonotic (animal-borne) and is normally maintained in an animal host that is native to the African continent. Research scientists continue to search for the exact animal host.
 
A similar host is probably associated with Ebola-Reston, which was isolated from infected cynomolgus monkeys that were imported to the United States and Italy from the Philippines. The disease is not known to be native to other continents, such as North America.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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