Learning About Ebola and Marburg Virus Infections

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What is an Ebola or Marburg virus infection?

Ebola and Marburg virus diseases are rare but often deadly diseases that are caused by the Ebola or Marburg virus. A person who is sick with one of these viruses can spread the infection to others. These are known as hemorrhagic viruses, because they can cause severe bleeding.

These viruses started in Africa, and that is where most cases of the disease have happened. Infections have occurred in other parts of the world when people with the disease travelled there.

For the most up-to-date news about Ebola or Marburg outbreaks, check the Government of Canada website (www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/ebola/index-eng.php) or the Public Health Agency of Canada website (www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/id-mi/vhf-fvh/marburg-eng.php).

How is the Ebola or Marburg virus spread?

How a human first got one of these viruses is not known. Most experts think a person got the virus from an animal.

These viruses can be spread among people through direct contact with:

  • The body fluids of someone who has the disease or who died from it. These include blood, urine, saliva, feces, vomit, semen, mucus, and sweat. Health care workers, caregivers, and people who prepare infected bodies for funerals need to protect themselves from getting infected with the virus.
  • Objects that have the virus on them. These include needles and syringes, bedding, and clothing.

You cannot catch the Ebola or Marburg virus just by breathing the same air as an infected person. For the virus to spread to you, body fluids from an infected person have to enter your body. The virus can enter your body through broken skin (even tiny cuts you cannot see) or mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth.

People infected with the virus cannot spread it until they have symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms usually feel like the flu. They include:

  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Feeling tired.

You may also have:

  • Headaches.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting and a stomach ache.
  • A rash.
  • Bleeding (hemorrhage) under the skin, in internal organs, or from openings in the body such as the mouth, eyes, or ears. This usually happens later in the disease.

The symptoms appear suddenly from 2 to 21 days after you are exposed to the virus. But most people see symptoms in 8 to 10 days.

How is an Ebola or Marburg virus infection treated?

There is no medicine that cures an Ebola or Marburg virus infection. You will be treated in a hospital and separated from other patients. Treatment may include:

  • Fluids through a vein (IV).
  • Watching oxygen levels and blood pressure.
  • Blood transfusions, if needed.
  • Treating other infections if they occur.
  • Help with breathing in an intensive care unit (ICU).

How well or fast you recover depends on how strong your immune system is and the quality of care you get.

How can you prevent an Ebola or Marburg virus infection?

  • Avoid areas where many people have the disease. Check the Government of Canada website (www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/ebola/index-eng.php) or the Public Health Agency of Canada website (www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/id-mi/vhf-fvh/marburg-eng.php).
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Do not touch any objects that may have touched the blood or other fluids of an infected person.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have the disease or who died from it.
  • Avoid hospitals or clinics in West Africa where the disease is being treated. Call the Canadian embassy or consulate for advice if you need medical care.
  • Don't buy or eat wild animals ("bush meat") in local markets in West Africa. If you're not sure what an animal is or whether or not it's wild, don't buy it.
  • Tell your doctor if you have touched the body fluids, such as blood, urine, saliva, feces, vomit, semen, mucus, or sweat, of a person who may be sick with Ebola or Marburg virus infection.

When should you call for help?

If you have symptoms of the illness, do not go to a health facility without calling first. Calling first will help the health care team take better care of you and protect others from the illness.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now if:

  • You have flu-like symptoms and you may have been exposed to the virus.
  • You have been in close contact with someone who is infected with the virus. You may need to watch for symptoms and avoid exposing others to the virus.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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