Diagnosing Ebola virus disease 

It's difficult to know if a patient is infected with Ebola virus in the early stages as symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle pain are similar to those of many other diseases.

But specialist infection clinicians will make expert judgements on what the most likely diagnosis is based on the patient’s history.

If Ebola is considered a possibility on this basis, then a person would be tested for the disease. 

Samples of blood or body fluid can be sent to a laboratory to be tested for the presence of Ebola virus, and a diagnosis can be made rapidly.

A person suspected of having Ebola would be isolated to minimise contact with other people while they are being tested. It is only if this test is positive that the case is considered to be ‘confirmed’.

If the test is positive, they will be transferred to a hospital high-level isolation unit.

If the result is negative, doctors will test for other diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and cholera.

Read about the treatment of Ebola virus disease.


Page last reviewed: 15/10/2014

Next review due: 15/10/2016