Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever: Fact Sheet
What laboratory tests are used to diagnose Ebola hemorrhagic fever?
Antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing, IgG
ELISA, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and virus isolation can be used to
diagnose a case of Ebola HF within a few days of the onset of symptoms. Persons
tested later in the course of the disease or after recovery can be tested for
IgM and IgG antibodies; the disease can also be diagnosed retrospectively in
deceased patients by using immunohistochemistry testing, virus isolation, or
How is Ebola hemorrhagic fever treated?
There is no standard treatment for Ebola HF. Currently, patients receive
supportive therapy. This consists of balancing the patient's fluids and
electrolytes, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating
them for any complicating infections. During the Kikwit outbreak, eight
patients were given blood of individuals who had been infected with Ebola virus
but recovered. Seven of the eight patients survived. However, because the
study size was small, and participants characteristics (including the fact that
they were relatively young) predisposed them towards recovery, the efficacy of
the treatment remains unknown.
How is Ebola hemorrhagic fever prevented?
The prevention of Ebola HF in Africa presents many challenges. Because the
identity and location of the natural reservoir of Ebola virus are unknown,
there are few established primary prevention measures.
If cases of the disease do appear, current social and economic conditions
favor the spread of an epidemic within health-care facilities. Therefore,
health-care providers must be able to recognize a case of Ebola HF should one
appear. They must also have the capability to perform diagnostic tests and be
ready to employ practical viral hemorrhagic fever isolation precautions, or
barrier nursing techniques. These techniques include the wearing of protective
clothing, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles; the use of
infection-control measures, including complete equipment sterilization; and the
isolation of Ebola HF patients from contact with unprotected persons. The aim
of all of these techniques is to avoid any person's contact with the blood or
secretions of any patient. If a patient with Ebola HF dies, it is equally
important that direct contact with the body of the deceased patient be
CDC has developed a set of tools to meet health-care facilities' needs. In
conjunction with the World Health Organization, CDC has developed practical,
hospital-based guidelines, titled Infection Control for
Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers In the African Health Care Setting.
The manual describes how health care facilities can recognize cases of viral
hemorrhagic fever, such as Ebola HF, and prevent further hospital-based disease
transmission by using locally available materials and few financial resources
if a case of VHF is diagnosed in the facility. A similarly practical diagnostic
test that uses tiny samples from patients' skin has been developed to
retrospectively diagnose Ebola HF in suspected case-patients who have died.