The first signs of Ebola are usually fever, severe headache, muscle pains and weakness. Other symptoms follow, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat, rash and malfunctioning of the liver and kidneys. Eventually, there may be severe internal and external bleeding and organ failure.
These symptoms start between 2 and 21 days after infection with the virus. Humans are infectious when they develop these symptoms.
In previous outbreaks in Africa, Ebola has been fatal in 50-90% of cases. In the event of a case occurring in Australia, it's likely that the chances of surviving the infection would be higher, with better health services here.
Who is at risk of getting Ebola?
People who are living in, or travelling to, affected areas of Africa may be at risk of infection; however, this risk is extremely low unless there has been direct exposure to the bodily fluids - including blood, saliva, urine, faeces, breast milk, vomit or semen - of an infected person (including through unprotected sexual contact with confirmed cases up to several months after they have recovered), or an infected animal (alive or dead).
Caring for relatives with Ebola is a known risk factor for infection. Healthcare workers, particularly those in resource poor settings with inadequate infection control, are also at risk.
If you arrive in Australia from an Ebola-affected country and you feel unwell, you should talk to a Customs officer at your point of arrival.
If you have recently travelled to or resided in an Ebola-affected area and feel unwell, you should see a doctor or go to a hospital emergency department to discuss your symptoms and travel history and to seek advice.
Generally, if you travel to or have recently resided in an African country and feel unwell, you may not have been infected by Ebola virus but you may have had exposure to other serious illnesses that share the same symptoms. Seeing a doctor early is advised.
Visit the Department of Health website for more information on Ebola, including:
- general Ebola information
- symptoms and risk factors for Ebola virus infection
- a list of countries affected by Ebola (or visual maps on the WHO website)
- what to do if you have been in an Ebola-affected country
Last reviewed: January 2017