Clinical Aspects of Ebola Virus Disease

by Michael_Koger

Human infection with Ebola virus presents in a non-specific way that is similar to other microbial diseases.

The clinical presentation of those who have acquired Ebola virus disease resembles several other illnesses. For example, it will likely overlap with signs and symptoms of malaria and influenza. Since malaria can occur in Africa where Ebola virus is also present, the physician has the challenge of making a distinction between the two [1, 2].

There may be fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. Later in the course of Ebola virus disease, the client may experience vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and organ failure such as liver and kidneys. Moreover, internal and external bleeding can take place in people who have this medical condition [1, 2].

Ebola Mimics other Infectious Diseases

These clinical signs and symptoms are common in developing and developed countries.  Hence, there may be a tendency to treat the person for some of the ailments which have occurred in that geographic region for many decades.  The physician must also consider typhoid fever, shigellosis, cholera, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, hepatitis, and other viral hemorrhagic fevers [1, 2]. 

For some of the other medical conditions, such as malaria, which present in a fashion similar to Ebola virus disease, antimicrobial therapy is available.  These drugs, however, will not improve the patient’s condition when Ebola virus disease is really what is responsible for the illness [1, 2].

Supportive Care Beneficial

Treatment for Ebola virus entails supportive care such as intravenous fluids and antipyretic agents.  Oral rehydration solutions which contain electrolytes are also beneficial for many of these clients.  There has been research with experimental vaccines; however, no pharmaceutical product has ever been available to effectively manage or cure this devastating and contagious infectious disease [1, 2].

It is nevertheless clear to health care providers that laboratory examination, in conjunction with the clinical presentation, is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of Ebola virus disease.  Furthermore, laboratory tests will indicate whether the patient is still contagious after improvement has taken place.  In essence, the clinical laboratory examinations will reveal whether the client still has the virus in his or her bloodstream, secretions, or other body fluids [1, 2].

When there has been laboratory confirmation that the individual is not contagious, the physician can send him or her home to live with family.  This disease can transmit sexually as well as through any other direct contact with blood and body fluids.  In fact, men can spread the infection to his partner as long as seven weeks after he has recovered from the disease as the virus may still be present in semen [2].


Ebola virus disease is highly contagious, and since no curative therapy is available yet, early diagnosis and management are essential in order to afford the best long-term prognosis.


1.  Centers for Disease Control.  (2014).  Ebola hemorrhagic fever.  Retrieved September 4, 2014.

2.  World Health Organization.  (2014).  Ebola virus disease.  Retrieved September 4, 2014.

3.  The photo indicates the early symptoms of Ebola virus disease and is reprinted with permission from the Centers for Disease Control.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 09/04/2014, Michael_Koger
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