Long-term Complications of Ebola Virus Disease: Prevalence and Predictors of Major Symptoms and the Role of Inflammation

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Oct 23;71(7):1749-1755. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciz1062.


Background: Cohort studies have reported a high prevalence of musculoskeletal, neurologic, auditory, and visual complications among Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivors. However, little is known about the host- and disease-related predictors of these symptoms and their etiological mechanisms.

Methods: The presence and patterns of 8 cardinal symptoms that are most commonly reported following EVD survival were assessed in the 326 EVD survivors who participated in the ongoing longitudinal Liberian EVD Survivor Study. At quarterly study visits, symptoms that developed since acute EVD were recorded and blood was collected for biomarkers of inflammation and immune activation.

Results: At baseline (mean 408 days from acute EVD), 75.5% of survivors reported at least 1 new cardinal symptom since surviving EVD, which in 85.8% was rated as highly interfering with life. Two or more incident symptoms were reported by 61.0% of survivors, with pairings of joint pain, headache, or fatigue the most frequent. Women were significantly more likely than men to report headache, while older age was significantly associated with musculoskeletal and visual symptoms. In analyses adjusted for multiple comparisons, no statistically significant association was found between any symptom and 26 markers of inflammation and immune activation. Symptom frequency remained largely unchanged during study follow-up.

Conclusions: Post-EVD complications occur in a majority of survivors and remain present more than 4 years after acute infection. An association between markers of inflammation and immune activation and individual symptoms was not found, suggesting an alternative etiology for persistent post-EVD symptomatology.

Keywords: Ebola virus disease; inflammation; post-EVD complications; survivors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Ebolavirus*
  • Female
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola* / complications
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Survivors