Ebola virus disease

1. What is Ebola virus disease?

Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness, with a death rate of up to 90%. The illness affects humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the other in a remote area of Sudan. EBOLA VIRUS

The origin of the virus is unknown but fruit bats (Pteropodidae) are considered the likely host of the Ebola virus, based on available evidence.

2. How do people become infected with the virus?

Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has occurred through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest. It is important to reduce contact with high-risk animals (i.e. fruit bats, monkeys or apes) including not picking up dead animals found lying in the forest or handling their raw meat.

Once a person comes into contact with an animal that has Ebola, it can spread within the community from human to human. Infection occurs from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, or other bodily fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people. Infection can also occur if broken skin or mucous membranes of a healthy person come into contact with environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient’s infectious fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen, or used needles.

Ebola Virus b

Health workers have frequently been exposed to the virus when caring for Ebola patients. This happens because they are not wearing personal protection equipment, such as gloves, when caring for the patients. Health care providers at all levels of the health system – hospitals, clinics and health posts – should be briefed on the nature of the disease and how it is transmitted, and strictly follow recommended infection control precautions.

Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola. Persons who have died of Ebola must be handled using strong protective clothing and gloves, and be buried immediately.

People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. For this reason, infected patients receive close monitoring from medical professionals and receive laboratory tests to ensure the virus is no longer circulating in their systems before they return home. When the medical professionals determine it is okay for the patient to return home, they are no longer infectious and cannot infect anyone else in their communities. Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery. For this reason, it is important for men to avoid sexual intercourse for at least 7 weeks after recovery or to wear condoms if having sexual intercourse during 7 weeks after recovery.

3. Who is most at risk?

During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are:

  • health workers;
  • family members or others in close contact with infected people;
  • mourners who have direct contact with the bodies of the deceased as part of burial ceremonies; and
  • hunters in the rain forest who come into contact with dead animals found lying in the forest.

More research is needed to understand if some groups, such as immuno-compromised people or those with other underlying health conditions, are more susceptible than others to contracting the virus.

Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family

Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family

Exposure to the virus can be controlled through the use of protective measures in clinics and hospitals, at community gatherings, or at home.

Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Epidemic & Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR) – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/ 

Africa WHO – http://www.afro.who.int/


WHO calls for higher tobacco taxes to save more lives

 On World No Tobacco Day (31 May), WHO calls on countries to raise taxes on tobacco to encourage users to stop and prevent other people from becoming addicted to tobacco. Based on 2012 data, WHO estimates that by increasing tobacco taxes by 50%, all countries would reduce the number of smokers by 49 million within the next 3 years and ultimately save 11 million lives.

Today, every 6 seconds someone dies from tobacco use. Tobacco kills up to half of its users. It also incurs considerable costs for families, businesses and governments. Treating tobacco-related diseases like cancer and heart disease is expensive. And as tobacco-related disease and death often strikes people in the prime of their working lives, productivity and incomes fall.

“Raising taxes on tobacco is the most effective way to reduce use and save lives,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Determined action on tobacco tax policy hits the industry where it hurts.”

The young and poor people benefit most


High prices are particularly effective in discouraging young people (who often have more limited incomes than older adults) from taking up smoking. They also encourage existing young smokers to either reduce their use of tobacco or quit altogether.

“Price increases are 2 to 3 times more effective in reducing tobacco use among young people than among older adults,” says Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of the Department for Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO. “Tax policy can be divisive, but this is the tax rise everyone can support. As tobacco taxes go up, death and disease go down.”

Good for economies too

WHO calculates that if all countries increased tobacco taxes by 50% per pack, governments would earn an extra US$ 101 billion in global revenue.

“These additional funds could – and should – be used to advance health and other social programmes,” adds Dr Bettcher.

Countries such as France and the Philippines have already seen the benefits of imposing high taxes on tobacco. Between the early 1990s and 2005, France tripled its inflation-adjusted cigarette prices. This was followed by sales falling by more than 50%. A few years later the number of young men dying from lung cancer in France started to go down. In the Philippines, one year after increasing taxes, the Government has collected more than the expected revenue and plans to spend 85% of this on health services.

Tobacco taxes are a core element of tobacco control

Tobacco use is the world’s leading preventable cause of death. Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. If no action is taken, tobacco will kill more than 8 million people every year by 2030, more than 80% of them among people living in low- and middle-income countries.

Raising taxes on tobacco in support of the reduction of tobacco consumption is a core element of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty that entered into force in 2005 and has been endorsed by 178 Parties. Article 6 of the WHO FCTC, Price and Tax Measures to Reduce the Demand for Tobacco, recognizes that “price and tax measures are an effective and important means of reducing tobacco consumption by various segments of the population, in particular young persons”.

Editor’s note

In September 2011, world leaders adopted a UN Political Declaration on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) at the United Nations General Assembly and committed themselves to accelerate implementation of the WHO FCTC. WHO was requested to complete a number of global assignments that would accelerate national efforts to address NCDs.

Since then a global agenda has been set, based on 9 concrete global NCD targets for 2025 organized around the WHO Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020. The plan comprises a set of actions which, when performed collectively by Member States, UN agencies and WHO, will help to achieve a global target of a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025 and a 30% reduction in the prevalence of tobacco use. The WHO Global action plan indicates that the reduction of affordability of tobacco products by increasing tobacco taxes is a very cost-effective and affordable intervention for all Member States.

The United Nations will hold a comprehensive review on the prevention and control of NCDs 10-11 July 2014 in New York. The review will provide a timely opportunity for rallying political support for the acceleration of actions by governments, international partners and WHO, included in the WHO global action plan – including raising tobacco taxes.

For more information, contact:

Helena Humphrey
WHO Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 39 10
Mobile: +41 79 514 15 26
Email: humphreyh@who.int

Fadéla Chaib
WHO Department of Communications
Mobile: +41 79 475 55 56
Telephone: +41 22 791 32 28
Email: chaibf@who.int

Risks to oral health and intervention – Tobacco


Prevalence of tobacco use has declined in some high-income countries but continues to increase in low- and middle-income countries, especially among young people and women. Undoubtedly, the increasing number of smokers and smokeless tobacco users among young people in different areas of the world will considerably affect the general and oral health of future generations. The prevalence of tobacco use in most countries is the highest amongst people of low educational background and among the poor and marginalized people.

Risks to oral health and intervention

Risks to oral health and intervention

Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of premature death and of several general diseases. In addition, cigarette, pipe, cigar and bidi smoking, betel quid chewing (pan), guhtka use and other traditional forms of tobacco have several effects in the mouth. Tobacco is a risk factor for oral cancer, oral cancer recurrence, adult periodontal diseases and congenital defects such as cleft lip and palate in children. Tobacco suppresses the immune system’s response to oral infection, compromises healing following oral surgical and accidental wounding, promotes periodontal degeneration in diabetics and adversely affects the cardiovascular system. Moreover, tobacco greatly increases the risk when used in combination with alcohol or areca nut. Most oral consequences of tobacco use impair quality of life be they as simple as halitosis, as complex as oral birth defects, as common as periodontal disease or as troublesome as complications during wound healing.

The WHO Oral Health Programme aims to control tobacco-related oral diseases and adverse conditions through several strategies. Within WHO, the Programme forms part of the WHO tobacco-free initiatives, with fully integrated oral health-related programmes. Externally, the Programme encourages the adoption and use of WHO tobacco-cessation and control policies by international and national oral health organizations. Primary partners are WHO Collaborating Centres in Oral Health and NGOs who are in official relations with WHO, i.e. the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) and the FDI World Dental Federation. A number of projects have been initiated in Canada, European Union countries, Japan, New Zealand and the United States, and more programmes are being considered in India and China.

There are several ethical, moral, and practical reasons why oral health professionals should strengthen their contributions to tobacco-cessation programmes, for example:

  • They are especially concerned about the adverse effects in the oropharyngeal area of the body that are caused by tobacco practices.
  • They meet, on a regular basis, children, youth and their caregivers, thus providing opportunities to influence individuals to entirely avoid, postpone initiation or quit using tobacco before they become strongly dependent.
  • They often have more time with patients than many other clinicians, providing opportunities to integrate education and intervention.
  • They often treat women of childbearing age, thus are able to inform such patients about the potential harm to their babies from tobacco use.
  • They are as effective as other clinicians in helping tobacco users quit and results are improved when more than one discipline assists individuals during the quitting process.
  • They can build their patient’s interest in discontinuing tobacco use by showing actual tobacco effects in the mouth.

World No Tobacco Day

The tobacco-related goal of the WHO Oral Health Programme is to ensure that oral health teams and oral health organizations are directly, appropriately and routinely involved in influencing patients and the public at large to avoid and discontinue the use of all forms of tobacco.

The aim of cancer control is a reduction in both the incidence of the disease and associated morbidity and mortality. This requires not only knowledge of the natural history of the disease but also an understanding of the underpinning social, economic and cultural factors. Screening and early detection can save lifes. Several developed and developing countries are in the process of implementing cancer prevention programmes, including oral cancer prevention. It is essential to educate people to recognize the early signs and symptoms of oral cancer. Particularly in developing countries, primary health care workers trained in the detection of oral cancer will become a considerable force for prevention through early detection and health promotion to raise awareness in the community. An effective referral system must be identified to ensure vital actions are taken.

world no tobacco day

The WHO Oral Health Programme supports the inclusion of oral cancer prevention as part of national cancer control programmes, based on careful planning, monitoring and evaluation, and partnership-building.

Related links