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What is Ebola?

Ebola is a virus that causes problems with how your blood clots. It is known as a hemorrhagic fever virus. This is because the clotting problems lead to internal bleeding, as blood leaks from small blood vessels in your body. The virus also causes inflammation and tissue damage. Five different species of the virus have been found. Ebola is hard to treat and may cause death in an average of about 10 days from the start of symptoms.


Symptoms of Ebola most often start about eight to 10 days after being exposed to the virus (but they can start any time between two to 21 days after a person is infected by the virus).

Early symptoms are similar to the flu and include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches

Additional symptoms show up several days later, including:

  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Less urine or no urine
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Red rash that doesn’t itch or hurt, and may peel after awhile
  • Redness and bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, and rectum

Later stages of the illness can cause:

  • Organ failure
  • Inflammation of the brain
  • Seizures
  • Lack of blood flow in the body (shock)
  • Death


Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids of people infected with it. These fluids are blood, saliva, sweat, tears, mucus, vomit, feces, breast milk, urine and semen. It is also spread by touching things that have been contaminated with these fluids.

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