Click on the video to hear John Hanlin, Ecolab vice president, Food Safety and Public Health, discuss the Ebola virus, how it is transmitted and how the risk of viral infection in general can be reduced.

Read below to learn more about the Ebola virus, what public health authorities recommend, what you can do, and how Ecolab can help.

What is Ebola?

The Ebola virus causes Ebola Virus Disease, previously called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. The disease is severe and often fatal in humans and other primates. Fatality rates can be as high as 90 percent. In the 2014 West Africa outbreak, more than one of every two people infected have died.

The virus was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in the West African nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the intervening years, sporadic outbreaks have occurred in West Africa, each of which has been contained within a relatively small area. An outbreak that began in the West African nation of Guinea in March 2014 and quickly spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.1 The World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of Ebola virus transmission as of October 20, 2014.2

What are the symptoms?

Ebola Virus Disease is characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, nausea and sore throat. This can be followed by vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding.1,3

Symptoms of Ebola may begin from two to 21 days after exposure, with the average time being eight to 10 days.4 Because early symptoms, such as fever, are similar to those of influenza and other infections, diagnosing Ebola can be difficult.

How is it transmitted?

The Ebola virus is believed to be animal-borne with fruit bats in Africa being the most likely source. A chain of infection is established when the saliva or feces of infected bats infect animals, such as monkeys, apes and pigs.

The human chain of infection in the 2014 Ebola outbreak began in West Africa where it is believed a human came into direct contact with an Ebola-infected animal or consumed contaminated animal milk, blood or raw or undercooked meat.

Human-to-human transmission is believed to occur in at least two ways:

  • Through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person. Secretions may include urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen.
  • Through exposure to hard surfaces and frequently touched objects that have been contaminated with infectious material.1,3 The Ebola virus can remain viable on hard surfaces. One study reported it could remain active for up to six days under ideal conditions.5 However, the virus is temperature sensitive. It can be inactivated by heating for 30 to 60 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius, or by boiling for five minutes.

The virus is believed to enter the body through open wounds or through the mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose and mouth.

Public health authorities believe that Ebola is not contagious until an infected person begins to show symptoms. People at highest risk of contracting the disease include health care workers and family and friends who may come into close contact with an infected individual who has a fever or other symptoms.

How is it controlled?

An outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease can be controlled by breaking the chain of infection. Previous Ebola outbreaks have been stopped through practices that include patient isolation and protection of healthcare personnel.

Stringent guidelines for protection in cases of confirmed or suspected Ebola infection have been issued by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Canada, the German Federal Health Authority and other national public health authorities.6,7,8 The websites of these organizations provide extensive information about Ebola and its control.

What can you do to reduce the risk of infection?

The best defense against Ebola and other viral and bacterial diseases is prevention. Public health authorities believe the risk of Ebola infection is low outside of the West African countries most affected. But there are steps you can take to lower the risk of infection in general, including more likely threats such as the seasonal flu.

  • Follow local, regional and/or national public health recommendations.
  • Establish policies that encourage employees to stay home when they are sick.
  • Train and encourage employees to practice good personal hygiene, including washing their hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Clean and disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces and areas that are touched frequently. Use disinfectants recommended by national public health authorities or the World Health Organization on their web sites. For more details on recommended disinfectants, see the section below: Cleaning and Disinfecting Surfaces.
  • Make sure you have personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, goggles and gowns, on hand and ensure that employees are trained in its proper use. Check the websites of the CDC and other health authorities for instructions on the proper sequence for putting on and removing personal protective equipment. To limit the spread of infection after a vomit or diarrhea event, make sure employees are trained to use a biohazard spill kit and proper cleaning, disinfecting and disposal procedures.
  • Ensure that needles and sharps are disposed of in an appropriate manner.
  • And stay up to date and follow local, regional and national public health recommendations.

 These are basics every organization can do every day – steps you can take to help ensure an environment that is healthy for your customers, your employees and you.

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects

Cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and objects that are touched frequently is a key step in preventing the spread of a wide range of bacteria and viruses, including the Ebola virus.

In the case of disinfecting to protect against Ebola, we recommend disinfectant products specified by local and national public health authorities, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), Health Canada, the German Federal Health Authority (RKI) or the World Health Organization (WHO). If local guidance is not available in your area, we suggest following the recommendations of these leading authorities.

Currently, no disinfectant products can make specific claims against the Ebola virus. However, the CDC has offered this guidance for hospitals: “Use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered hospital disinfectant with a label claim for a non-enveloped virus (e.g., norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, poliovirus) to disinfect environmental surfaces in rooms of patients with suspected or conformed Ebola virus infection.” 9

The CDC notes that the Ebola virus, which is an “enveloped” virus, is susceptible to a broad range of disinfectants when used on hard, non-porous surfaces. However, as an extra precaution in healthcare environments, the CDC recommends the use of higher-potency disinfectant products – the type that would be used to protect against more resistant “non-enveloped” viruses.

In Europe, RKI recommends that disinfectants with a label claim of “effective against enveloped viruses” be used according to the Robert Koch Institute and the German Association for the Control of Virus Diseases.10

On strong evidence that bleach and non-bleach disinfectants are effective against the Ebola virus, WHO recommends 1:10 dilution of 5 percent household bleach for clean-up of vomit or diarrhea and a 1:100 dilution of bleach for general surface disinfection.11

How can Ecolab help?

Ecolab supplies solutions that can be used in hygiene programs that follow the cleaning recommendations of leading public health authorities. Our representatives can guide you to the appropriate programs for your needs.

In addition, Ecolab representatives are available to provide training on best practices in cleaning and disinfection and the proper use of products and tools for your business.

Protecting people from infection is in everyone’s best interest. Success requires commitment to following best practices day in and day out, to innovation to find new and better solutions and to a shared concern for communities near and far. Ecolab is pleased to be part of the effort.


Learn More:

For more information on Ebola or other public health concerns, visit the web sites of the organizations below.


  1. www.who.int/csr/don/2014_04_ebola/en/
  2. www.who.int/mediacentre/news/ebola/20-october-2014/en/
  3. www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/
  4. www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/symptoms/index.html
  5. Sagripanti JL, Rom AM, Holland LE. Persistence in darkness of virulent alphaviruses, Ebola virus, and Lassa virus deposited on solid surfaces. Arch Virol2010; 155:2035-2039.
  6. www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/filovirus_infection_control/en/
  7. www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/
  8. www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/infection-prevention-and-control-recommendations.html
  9. www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/environmental-infection-control-in-hospitals.html
  10. who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/filovirus_infection_control/en/