Signs and Symptoms of Ebola Disease

Key points

  • Ebola disease symptoms appear 2 to 21 days after someone is exposed to the virus.
  • "Dry" symptoms, like fever and weakness, occur first and can progress to "wet" symptoms, like diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Due to nonspecific symptoms, Ebola disease can be confused with more common infectious diseases.

Early symptoms

Symptoms of Ebola disease may appear 2 to 21 days after contact with the virus. On average, people begin showing symptoms 8 to 10 days after exposure. At first, symptoms are generic and are known as "dry" symptoms. These may include:

  • Fever
  • Aches and pains in the muscles and joints
  • Severe headache
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Sore throat

Healthcare providers can confuse Ebola disease with other more common infectious diseases, such as:

Later symptoms

After four to five days of illness, patients can progress to "wet" symptoms as they become sicker. These symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms
    • Nausea
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting

Other symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion, red eyes, skin rash, hiccups, and seizures.

Patients who pass away from Ebola disease usually develop more severe symptoms early in the illness. Patients who survive may have fever for several days and begin improving about 6 days after symptoms started.

Complications and when to seek help

Ebola disease survivors may suffer from long-term complications, such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Eye and vision problems (blurry vision, pain, redness, light sensitivity)
  • Weight gain
  • Stomach pain or loss of appetite

Other health problems can include memory loss, neck swelling, dry mouth, tightness of the chest, hair loss, hearing problems, pain or tingling in the hands and feet, inflammation of the tissues around the heart, inflammation of one or both testicles, changes in menstruation, impotence, decreased or lost interest in sex, difficulty falling or remaining asleep, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The timing of onset, severity, and duration of complications among Ebola disease survivors are variable.

When to seek help

If you believe you were exposed to someone with Ebola disease and are experiencing signs and symptoms of Ebola disease, contact your doctor or state health department immediately.