Is Ebola Curable?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Ask the experts

I've seen on the news how devastating the Ebola virus is, and I'm terrified for my nephew who currently works for an NGO in North Africa. Is Ebola curable? How is Ebola being treated?

Doctor's response

The prognosis of Ebola hemorrhagic fever is often poor; the death rate of this disease ranges from 50%-100%, and those who survive may experience the complications listed above. However, early diagnosis and treatment of Ebola may greatly increase the patient's chance for survival. Unfortunately, this disease has been mainly located in countries where medical care is often difficult to obtain, especially in rural areas of Africa. Current statistics available on the ongoing 2014-2015 outbreak (as of April 2016) of Ebola are summarized below:

Total suspected, probable, and confirmed infections worldwide equal 28,616, and total deaths equal 11,310 for a death rate or death toll of approximately 41%. An occasional new infection (at a low level) and deaths of current patients are unlikely to change these numbers substantially as the epidemic outbreak has ended according to the CDC. Fortunately, this epidemic of 2014-2016 did not become a pandemic but did show how rapidly a relatively rare disease like Ebola can rapidly infect a large number of individuals in this modern-day society.

According to the CDC and others, standard treatment for Ebola hemorrhagic fever is still limited to supportive therapy. Supportive therapy is balancing the patient's fluid and electrolytes, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating such patients for any complicating infections. Any patients suspected of having Ebola hemorrhagic fever should be isolated, and caregivers should wear protective garments. Currently, there is no specific medical treatment for Ebola hemorrhagic fever according to the CDC. The CDC recommends the following medical treatments for Ebola-infected patients:

  • Providing intravenous fluids (IV) and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
  • Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
  • Treating other infections if they occur

Health care professionals transport patients diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. to special hospitals certified to treat Ebola patients. (Contact the CDC immediately for information for experimental vaccines, treatment protocols, and patient care and/or transfer to an appropriate facility.) The special hospitals were certified because of the problems experienced in a Texas hospital where the first patient in the U.S. was diagnosed with Ebola and subsequently spread the disease to hospital workers. Experimental medical treatments of Ebola infections include immune serum, antiviral drugs, possible blood transfusions, and supportive care in an intensive care hospital facility approved by the CDC to treat Ebola infections.

For more information, read our full medical article on Ebola.

CONTINUE SCROLLING OR CLICK HERE FOR RELATED SLIDESHOW

REFERENCES:

Henao-Restrepo, Ana Maria, 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-randomized trial (Ebola Ça Suffit!)." The Lancet 389.10068 Feb. 4, 2017: 505-518.<http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)32621-6/fulltext>.

Regules, Jason A., et al. "A Recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Ebola Vaccine." NEJM 376 (2017): 330-341. <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1414216>.

Samb, Saliou. "Scale of Guinea's Ebola epidemic unprecedented: aid agency." Reuters. Mar. 31, 2014. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/us-guinea-ebola-idUSBREA2U10E20140331>.

Switzerland. World Health Organization. "Final trial results confirm Ebola vaccine provides high protection against disease." Dec. 23, 2016. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/ebola-vaccine-results/en/>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever." June 22, 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever: Chronology of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreaks." Apr. 7, 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/resources/outbreak-table.html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in U.S. Hospitals." Feb. 12, 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/healthcare-us/hospitals/infection-control.html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2018 Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bikoro." May 2018. <https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/drc/2018-may.html>.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 9/28/2018