Overview

The Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through person-to-person contact. The first Ebola outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but more recent outbreaks have also included East Africa and major urban centres of West Africa. 

Credit: Rebecca Inglis
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Credit: Rebecca Inglis

The Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through person-to-person contact. The first Ebola outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but more recent outbreaks have also included East Africa and major urban centres of West Africa.

Despite more than two dozen Ebola outbreaks in the last 40 years, knowledge, treatment options and diagnostic certainty of Ebola remains inadequate. Currently, there is a wealth of clinical, laboratory, and epidemiological data that have been collected throughout the history of Ebola virus disease outbreaks, and especially across the three most affected countries during the 2013–2016 outbreak.   

Subsets of this information have been analysed to help understand disease progression and the effect of outbreak response activities, but these analyses are often limited by geography, referral patterns or unique conditions that limit the generalisability of the results. Additionally, the numbers of high-risk patients, such as children, pregnant women and those with co-morbidities, are insufficient within single centres or organisations to draw conclusions within limited populations.

To address the many remaining questions on Ebola and to improve the response to future outbreaks, this Ebola Data platform has been developed so that all databases can be pooled, standardised and made available to research communities both within Ebola-affected countries and globally.

The management of Ebola outbreaks relies on strong community engagement in surveillance, suspect case alert and contact tracing. These techniques need to be supported by good laboratory services, isolation treatment centres, safe burial practices and social mobilisation focused on educational programmes and campaigns.

Data on each of these areas is necessary to track and stop outbreaks as well as to develop an understanding of the disease. By combining the datasets of the many organisations that generate data on Ebola, we can maximise the resources for researchers to produce evidence that reduces Ebola’s impact on patients and communities.

For more information about Ebola virus disease, click here.