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CDC: The Facts About Ebola

Editor’s note: Americans have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of an outbreak of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in this country following the death of Thomas Eric Duncan on October 8th 2014 in Dallas and the CDC confirmation on October 12th that a nurse who had cared for Duncan has tested positive for the deadly disease. Duncan, who had recently traveled from Liberia where he had contact with a woman who died of Ebola, was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on our shores. In response to the population’s fears and questions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published the following fact sheet.

Symptoms of Ebola:
• Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
• Severe headache
• Muscle pain
• Weakness
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting
• Abdominal (stomach) pain
• Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

Because the natural reservoir host of Ebola viruses has not yet been identified, the manner in which the virus first appears in a human at the start of an outbreak is unknown. However, researchers believe that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.
When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with
• blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
• objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
• infected animals
• Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.

Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients.

During outbreaks of Ebola, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to Ebola can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, including masks, gowns, and gloves and eye protection.