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close this bookWHO Recommended Surveillance Standards (WHO; 1999; 157 pages)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentAcronyms
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentNational Coordination of Communicable Disease Surveillance
View the documentExplanatory notes
View the documentSurveillance activities: criteria and WHO Department
View the documentCommunicable disease contacts in Regional Offices
close this folderDiseases
View the documentB20-B21-B22-B23-B24 AIDS
View the documentA22 Anthrax
View the documentA23 Brucellosis
View the documentA00 Cholera
View the documentA81.0 Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
View the documentA90, A91 Dengue fever (A90) including Dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) & Dengue shock syndrome (DSS, A91)
View the documentA36 Diphtheria
View the documentB72 Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease)
View the documentA98.3, A98.4 Ebola-Marburg viral diseases
View the documentA83.0 Japanese encephalitis
View the documentB74 Lymphatic filariasis
View the documentB96.3 Haemophilus influenzae type b
View the documentB15-B17 Acute viral hepatitis
View the documentB20-B24 HIV infection
View the documentJ10, J11 Influenza
View the documentA96.2 Lassa fever
View the documentA48.1 Legionellosis
View the documentB55.1, B55.2 Cutaneous leishmaniasis
View the documentLeishmania / HIV co-infections
View the documentB55.0 Visceral leishmaniasis
View the documentA30 Leprosy
View the documentA27 Leptospirosis
View the documentB50-54 Malaria
View the documentB05 Measles
View the documentA39 Meningococcal disease
View the documentA87 Viral meningitis
View the documentB73 Onchocerciasis
View the documentA37.0 Pertussis
View the documentA20 Plague
View the documentA36 Poliomyelitis
View the documentA82 Rabies
View the documentA02.0 Salmonellosis
View the documentB65 Schistosomiasis
View the documentA50-52 Syphilis
View the documentA33 Tetanus, neonatal
View the documentB56-0, B56-1 African trypanosomiasis
View the documentB57 American trypanosomiasis
View the documentA15-A19 Tuberculosis
View the documentA75.3 Scrub typhus
View the documentA95.9 Yellow fever
open this folder and view contentsSyndromes
View the documentAnnex 1 Software free and in the public domain
View the documentAnnex 2 Proposed surveillance definitions
View the documentAnnex 3 Role and use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping for epidemiological surveillance

A98.3, A98.4 Ebola-Marburg viral diseases


Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a rare but severe disease occurring primarily in areas of African rain forest. The disease is characterized by person-to-person transmission through close contact with patients, dead bodies or infected body fluids. Epidemics of the disease can be dramatically amplified in health care centres with poor hygiene standards; the attendant potential for explosive nosocomial infection constitutes the main threat to public health posed by the disease. Surveillance is aimed at early detection of cases in order to avoid epidemics and possible international spread of the disease.

Marburg virus infections are extremely rare. They appear to be similar to Ebola haemorrhagic fever and recommendations for both viral infections are the same.


Clinical description

Ebola haemorrhagic fever begins with acute fever, diarrhoea that can be bloody (referred to as "diarrhée rouge" in francophone Africa), and vomiting. Headache, nausea, and abdominal pain are common. Conjunctival injection, dysphagia, and haemorrhagic symptoms such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, vomiting of blood, blood in stools, purpura may further develop. Some patients may also show a maculopapular rash on the trunk. Dehydration and significant wasting occur as the disease progresses. At a later stage, there is frequent involvement of the central nervous system, manifested by somnolence, delirium, or coma. The case-fatality rate ranges from 50% to 90%.

Laboratory criteria for diagnosis



• Positive serology (ELISA for IgG and/or IgM), or Confirmatory:
• Positive virus isolation (only in a laboratory of biosafety level 4) or
• Positive skin biopsy (immunohistochemistry) or
• Positive PCR

Case classification

Suspected: A case that is compatible with the clinical description.

Probable: in epidemic situation:


• Any person having had contact with a clinical case and presenting with acute fever, or

• Any person presenting with acute fever and 3 of the following symptoms: headache, vomiting/nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, intense fatigue, abdominal pain, general or articular pain, difficulty in swallowing, difficulty in breathing, hiccoughs, or

• Any unexplained death

Confirmed: Any suspected or probable case that is laboratory-confirmed.

Contact: in epidemic situation:


An asymptomatic person having had physical contact within the past 21 days with a confirmed or probable case or his/her body fluids (e.g., care for patient, participation in burial ceremony, handling of potentially infected laboratory specimens).

In epidemic situations and after laboratory confirmation of a few initial cases, there is no need for individual laboratory confirmation and the use of "suspected or probable" case classifications is sufficient for surveillance and control purposes.


In endemic areas and in the absence of an epidemic:

Immediate reporting of suspected cases from the periphery to intermediate and central levels to ensure rapid investigation and laboratory confirmation.


Note: Routine surveillance of Ebola haemorrhagic fever must be integrated with routine surveillance for other viral haemorrhagic fevers (e.g., Crimean-Congo fever, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever).

In epidemic situations:


• Intensified surveillance and active finding of all suspected and probable cases for immediate isolation, and of all contact subjects for daily medical follow-up

• The surveillance area should be monitored for a duration corresponding to 2 estimated incubation periods after the date of death or hospital discharge of the last case

• A rumour registry should be established to create a systematic registration of rumours of cases reported by the population

• A single source of official information is essential to ensure coherence and avoid confusion in the public


Case-based data for reporting and investigation


• Case classification (suspected/probable/confirmed)
• Unique identifier, name, age, sex
• Geographical information, name of head of family, name of father (if child)
• Profession, place of work
• Date of onset of fever, symptoms, signs
• Hospitalization, including date
• Death including date
• Contact with previous case, including date
• Nature and date of clinical samples taken for laboratory investigation (if any)

Aggregated data for reporting


• Number of cases (suspected/probable/confirmed) by age, sex
• Number of deaths


An epidemiological bulletin should be sent daily to local health authorities and to WHO headquarters. It should include the following information:



• Total cumulative number of cases
• Total cumulative number of deaths
• Current number of patients
• Current number of hospitalized patients
• Date of last identified case
• Date of death or hospital discharge of the last reported case

Breakdown by sex and age group can also be provided



• Current number of contacts requiring follow up
• Current number of contacts under proper follow-up

Breakdown by sex and age group can also be provided

When possible, the geographic distribution of cases and contacts should be provided, as well as a simple epidemic curve.

Case-fatality rates, attack rates, and age-specific attack rates can be calculated for epidemiological assessment.

A more detailed report summarizing events and data should be produced weekly and a complete report should be available at the end of the epidemic.


Routine surveillance data


• Detect an isolated case or an outbreak and immediately take appropriate measures to avoid an epidemic

Active case finding and contact tracing during outbreaks are essential for control


• Identify all cases and contacts
• Assess and monitor the spread of an outbreak
• Evaluate control measures
• Provide a basis for research (epidemiological data, clinical specimens)


Since extreme biohazard is associated with sampling, transportation and laboratory investigation, strictly applied biosafety procedures and appropriate isolation of patients are essential.

All known Ebola strains from Africa produce disease in humans; one Ebola strain from the Philippines (Reston) has infected humans without producing disease.


Regional Offices

See Regional Communicable Disease contacts on section "Communicable disease contacts in Regional Offices".

Headquarters: 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland

Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Response (CSR)


E-mail: rodierg@who.ch / outbreak@who.ch
Tel: (41 22) 791 2109/2573/2111
Fax: (41 22) 791 48 93/07 46 attn CSR
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