Ebola virus diseases (EVD) (sometimes called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever) is the disease caused by infection with an Ebola virus. It is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) brought on by any of several strains of viruses in the Ebolavirus genus. Ebola viruses are capable of causing severe, life-threatening disease. Many people who get EVD die from it. Workers performing tasks involving close contact with symptomatic individuals with EVD or in environments contaminated or reasonably anticipated to be contaminated with infectious body fluids are at risk of exposure. These workers may include workers in the healthcare, mortuary and death care, airline, and other travel service industries.
EVD is usually marked by fever, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. The illness progression includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and impaired organ function. In some cases, rash, internal and/or external bleeding, and death may occur.
In areas of Africa where Ebola viruses are common, suspected reservoirs include primate and bat populations. While there are no known animal reservoirs of the disease in the U.S., there is concern related to possible spread of EVD among human populations due to the availability and reach of global travel. Under certain conditions, exposure to just one viral particle can result in development of EVD. Depending on the strain and the individual infected with the disease, EVD may be fatal in 50-90 percent of cases.1
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorizes Ebola virus as a Category A select agent. This group includes high-priority agents that pose a risk to national security because they can be easily disseminated or transmitted from person to person; result in high mortality rates and have the potential for major public health impact; might cause public panic and social disruption; and require special action for public health preparedness. Because symptoms of EVD may appear consistent with many other illnesses (e.g., influenza, malaria), diagnosis and treatment of EVD could be delayed during an outbreak. Employers must protect their workers from exposure to Ebola virus on the job.
This web page provides information about Ebola viruses and EVD for workers and employers. The web page includes sections on:
Provides background information, including the origins of the Ebola virus and EVD.
Discusses exposure, incubation, symptom onset, illness, and recovery and death information as well as medical management and countermeasures.
Control and Prevention
Provides general guidelines for workers by job type. These general guidelines are not intended to cover workers who have direct contact with individuals with EVD.
- Currently, Ebola virus and Ebola virus disease (EVD) do not pose a threat to most U.S. workers. However, during outbreaks, exposure to the virus or someone with EVD may be more likely in certain sectors, including the healthcare, mortuary/death care, and airline servicing industries.
- At this time, there is not an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. Isolated outbreaks are common, particularly in Africa. Currently, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country in Central Africa, is experiencing an outbreak that has resulted in hemorrhagic fever-related deaths.
- There have been no known cases of EVD acquired in the U.S. since the 2014-2015 West African outbreak.
- Some specially equipped U.S. hospitals have treated patients with EVD who were brought back to the U.S. after being infected in other countries.
- Ebola typically spreads by contact with body fluids from a living or deceased person or animal with EVD, though some medical, laboratory, and other tasks may expose workers to aerosols containing Ebola virus.
- Until a person develops symptoms of EVD, he or she is not considered contagious.
- Whenever workers have occupational exposure to the Ebola virus, employers must take steps to protect them.
The OSH Act protects workers who complain to their employer, OSHA or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful working conditions in the workplace. You cannot be transferred, denied a raise, have your hours reduced, be fired, or punished in any other way because you used any right given to you under the OSH Act. If you have been punished or discriminated against for using your rights, you must file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged reprisal for most complaints. No particular form is required to report the discrimination, but you may send a letter, call the OSHA Area Office nearest you, or file online using the Online Whistleblower Complaint Form.
- CDC Ebola web page. Updated guidance for healthcare workers, including steps for putting on (donning) and removing (doffing) PPE.
- Managing Solid Waste Contaminated with a Category A Infectious Substance. U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT); U.S. Department of Labor (DOL); Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); U.S. Department of Defense (DoD); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), (August 2019). Provides consolidated, interagency guidance for employers and workers on best practices for safe waste handling throughout the waste cycle, from the point of waste generation through final disposition of treated waste products.
- Safe Handling, Treatment, Transport and Disposal of Ebola-Contaminated Waste. OSHA/NIOSH/EPA Fact Sheet. Provides Ebola-specific waste management guidance for employers and workers.
- PPE Selection Matrix for Occupational Exposure to Ebola Virus. OSHA Fact Sheet. Provides task-based guidance to help employers select appropriate PPE for workers who may be exposed to Ebola virus in a number of higher-risk work settings.
- Cleaning and Decontamination of Ebola on Surfaces (Spanish). OSHA Fact Sheet. Provides guidance on protecting workers in non-healthcare/non-laboratory settings from exposure to Ebola virus, and from harmful levels of chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection.
1 "NRT Quick Reference Guide: Ebola and Marburg Hemorrhagic Fevers," U.S. National Response Team.