Transmissibility and Pathogenicity of Ebola Virus: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Household Secondary Attack Rate and Asymptomatic Infection

Clin Infect Dis. 2016 May 15;62(10):1277-1286. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciw114. Epub 2016 Feb 29.


Factors affecting our ability to control an Ebola outbreak include transmissibility of the virus and the proportion of transmissions occurring asymptomatically. We performed a meta-analysis of Ebola household secondary attack rate (SAR), disaggregating by type of exposure (direct contact, no direct contact, nursing care, direct contact but no nursing care). The estimated overall household SAR is 12.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.6%-16.3%). Transmission was driven by direct contact, with little transmission occurring in its absence (SAR, 0.8% [95% CI, 0%-2.3%]). The greatest risk factor was the provision of nursing care (SAR, 47.9% [95% CI, 23.3%-72.6%]). There was evidence of a decline in household SAR for direct contact between 1976 and 2014 (P = .018). We estimate that 27.1% (95% CI, 14.5%-39.6%) of Ebola infections are asymptomatic. Our findings suggest that surveillance and containment measures should be effective for controlling Ebola.

Keywords: Ebola; asymptomatic infection; household; secondary attack rate.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asymptomatic Infections*
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ebolavirus / pathogenicity*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola* / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola* / transmission
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola* / virology
  • Humans