Prevention and Vaccine
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a very rare disease caused by infection with Zaire ebolavirus, one of four types of the virus that is known to cause illness in people. It is believed to occur naturally in specific animal populations that live in multiple sub-Saharan African countries. In the areas of sub-Saharan Africa where EVD is most common, Ebola virus is believed to spread at low rates among certain animal populations. Occasionally people become sick with Ebola after coming into contact with infected animals, which can then lead to Ebola outbreaks being spread person-to-person. It has been brought to the United States on a small number of occasions by people who were infected in other countries; in one case, a patient with Ebola went on to spread the virus to two nurses who cared for him. To date, there have only been four cases of EVD diagnosed in the US.
When living in or traveling to a region where Ebola virus is potentially present, there are a number of ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of EVD.
- Avoid contact with blood and body fluids (such as urine, feces, saliva, sweat, vomit, breast milk, amniotic fluid, semen, and vaginal fluids) of people who are sick.
- Avoid contact with semen from a man who has recovered from EVD, until testing shows that the virus is gone from his semen.
- Avoid contact with items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
- Avoid funeral or burial practices that involve touching the body of someone who died from EVD or suspect EVD.
- Avoid contact with bats, forest antelopes, and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys and chimpanzees) blood, fluids, or raw meat prepared from these or unknown animals (bushmeat).
These same prevention methods should be used when living in or traveling to an area experiencing an Ebola outbreak. After returning from an area experiencing an Ebola outbreak, people should monitor their health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if they develop symptoms of EVD.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV (called Ervebo™) on December 19, 2019. This is the first FDA-approved vaccine for Ebola.
This vaccine is given as a single dose vaccine and has been found to be safe and protective against Zaire ebolavirus, which has caused the largest and most deadly Ebola outbreaks to date.
On February 26, 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended pre-exposure prophylaxis vaccination with rVSV-ZEBOV for adults ≥ 18 years of age in the U.S. population who are at potential occupational risk of exposure to Zaire ebolavirus. This recommendation includes adults who are
- Responding or planning to respond to an outbreak of EVD;
- Laboratorians or other staff working at biosafety-level 4 facilities that work with live Ebola virus in the United States; or
- Healthcare personnel working at federally designated Ebola Treatment Centers pdf icon[PDF – 1 MB]external icon in the United States.
A two-dose vaccine regimen of a different vaccine that was also designed to protect against the Zaire ebolavirus species of Ebola was used under a research protocol in 2019 during an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two doses of this vaccine use two different vaccine components (Ad26.ZEBOV and MVA-BN-Filo) and the regimen requires an initial dose and a “booster” dose 56 days later. This vaccine has not yet been approved by the FDA for routine use.