In the United States, Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a very rare disease that has only occurred because of cases that were acquired in other countries, eventually followed by human to human transmission. The reservoir of the virus does not exist in the United States. EVD is more common in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with occasional outbreaks occurring in people. In these areas, Ebola virus is believed to circulate at low rates in certain animal populations (enzootic). Occasionally people become sick with Ebola after coming into contact with these infected animals, which can then lead to Ebola outbreaks where the virus spreads between people.
When living in or traveling to a region where Ebola virus is present, there are a number of ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of EVD.
While in an area affected by Ebola, it is important to avoid the following:
- Contact with blood and body fluids (such as urine, feces, saliva, sweat, vomit, breast milk, semen, and vaginal fluids).
- Items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
- Funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who died from EVD.
- Contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids and raw meat prepared from these animals (bushmeat) or meat from an unknown source.
- Contact with semen from a man who had EVD until you know the virus is gone from the semen.
These same prevention methods apply when living in or traveling to an area affected by an Ebola outbreak. After returning from an area affected by Ebola, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of EVD.
There is currently no vaccine licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect people from Ebola virus.
An experimental vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV was found to be highly protective against the virus in a trial conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international partners in Guinea in 2015. FDA licensure for the vaccine is expected in 2019. In the meantime, 300,000 doses have been committed for an emergency use stockpile under the appropriate regulatory mechanism (Investigational New Drug application [IND] or Emergency Use Authorization [EUA]) in the event an outbreak occurs before FDA approval is received. Scientists continue to study the safety of this vaccine in populations such as children and people with HIV.
Another Ebola vaccine candidate, the recombinant adenovirus type-5 Ebola vaccine, was evaluated in a phase 2 trial in Sierra Leone in 2015. An immune response was stimulated by this vaccine within 28 days of vaccination, the response decreased over six months after injection. Research on this vaccine is ongoing.
 Henao-Restrepo AM, Camacho A, Longini I. et al. Efficacy and effectiveness of an rVSV-vectored vaccine in preventing Ebola virus disease: final results from the Guinea ring vaccination, open label, cluster-randomised trial (Ebola Ca Suffit!). The Lancet. (2017) 389: 505-518.
 Zhu F, Wurie AH, Liang Q. et al. Safety and immunogenicity of a recombinant adenovirus type-5 vector-based Ebola vaccine in healthy adults in Sierra Leone: a single-centre, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial. The Lancet (2017) 389: 621-28.
- Page last reviewed: January 30, 2019
- Page last updated: January 30, 2019
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