Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a serious viral disease that can cause hemorrhagic fever. It affects humans and animals.
The Ebola virus was first identified over 30 years ago. This rare disease has been associated with historic outbreaks in several African countries. Areas of sub-Saharan Africa were the most prone to these outbreaks. Without treatment, the mortality rate in humans ranges from 25% to 90%.
No cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported in Québec or Canada. The likelihood of introducing the virus into Canada is very low. The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are working with the governments of the affected countries.
Since Ebola virus disease emerged in 1975, outbreaks have occurred in some African countries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (the DRC) is one country that has been particularly affected. After a five-month streak of no new cases, another outbreak was declared in October 2021, specifically in the DRC province of North Kivu.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has posted outbreak alerts on the DRC pages under the Health tabs. If you have to travel to the DRC, see a health professional at least six weeks before you go. And, since sporadic cases or outbreaks can occur after a large outbreak, preventive measures must still be taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whether there is an active outbreak or not. This is important for reducing the risk of exposure to EVD at all times.
Risks for travellers
Travellers might be exposed to Ebola virus disease if they participate, in the regions affected, in activities that could put them in contact with the infected blood or bodily fluids of an affected person. For example:
- during delivery of healthcare;
- during participation in funeral rituals, such as a burial ceremony;
- during sexual contact.
Also, travellers might be exposed to Ebola virus disease if they are in contact with infected animals or by consuming the meat of wild animals.
Early symptoms come on suddenly:
- Heavy fatigue
- Muscle pain
Other symptoms may appear after a few days:
- external bleeding (from the nose and gums), and internal bleeding (bruising, blood in urine or stool).
A third of people infected with the Ebola virus may experience bleeding in various parts of their bodies. Such bleeding occurs several days after the onset of symptoms. The percentage of deaths associated with the disease is closely related to the quality of infrastructure and health system in the countries affected.
Symptoms of Ebola virus disease most often appear between 2 to 21 days after infection.
If you have travelled to an area affected by the EVD during the last 21 days and have the symptoms described, call Info-Santé at 811. A nurse will evaluate your health and make recommendations based on your condition.
Treatment consists mainly of relieving symptoms. Experimental treatments and vaccines are being developed and may be used in specific situations.
Ebola virus disease is transmissible. An infected person becomes contagious only when he or she develops symptoms.
A person may contract the Ebola virus if they come into contact with:
- the bodily fluids of an infected person;
- a surface or object contaminated with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
Contact may occur through mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes or genitals) or broken skin.
An infected person becomes more contagious as the disease progresses because the fluids they lose when their symptoms get worse (blood, vomit, diarrhea, urine) are also infected.
The Ebola virus may also remain in some bodily fluids such as semen for an unknown length of time after recovery from the disease. Therefore, people who have close contact with survivors of the disease are advised to take certain precautions.
There is no known risk to meet with people coming from affected countries if they do not have symptoms of Ebola virus disease. Similarly, people who have been in contact with individuals coming from a country where there is an outbreak of EVD pose no risk to those around them.
Protection and prevention
Even though it is unlikely that the spread of Ebola virus disease occurs in Québec, it is recommended that you follow tips for preventing transmission of viruses and bacteria.
A vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV), developed by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory, is waiting to be licensed by Canadian regulatory authorities. Studies show that the vaccine is very effective in preventing Ebola virus infection when used before and immediately after exposure to the virus.
However, because this vaccine is neither licensed nor marketed in Canada, it is currently unavailable for travellers who visit the regions affected.
In the context of management of the outbreak, however, the vaccine may be offered to humanitarian workers who travel to the regions affected by Ebola virus disease or regions where the risk of propagation is high.
Until the vaccine is no longer considered experimental, people who are vaccinated who travel to affected areas will be subject to the same prevention and control measures as people who have not been vaccinated.
Last update: November 22, 2021