As concerns grow over reported cases of Ebola in the United States, many are asking questions about the disease, how it is transmitted and what they can do to protect themselves.
Here's what you need to know about Ebola. The information comes from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How did Ebola get to the U.S.?
The patient diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital had recently traveled by plane from Liberia to the U.S. to visit family, the CDC said. He landed in the U.S. on Sept. 20 and began exhibiting symptoms of the virus four days later.
How is Ebola spread from person to person?
The good news is that Ebola isn't transmitted through the air. You aren't going to get Ebola if an infected person sits next to you or sneezes in the same room. The disease is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood from an infected person. The disease is only contagious when an infected person is showing symptoms.
Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or through your eyes, nose, or mouth) with:
- Blood and body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.
- Objects (like needles) that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola.
Ebola is not spread through the air, water, or food.
Health care workers are particularly at risk if they are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and gloves.
How do I protect myself from Ebola?
DO wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Do NOT touch the blood or body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of people who are sick.
Do NOT handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person's blood or body fluids, like clothes, bedding, needles, or medical equipment.
Do NOT touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola.
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
Ebola is a hemorrhagic virus characterized by the sudden onset of flu-like symptoms including fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. These are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
What to do if you are exposed to Ebola?
If you have traveled to an area with an Ebola outbreak or had close contact with a person sick with Ebola, you may be at risk if you:
- Had direct contact with blood or body fluids or items that came into contact with blood or body fluids from a person with Ebola.
- Touched bats or nonhuman primates (like apes or monkeys) or blood, fluids, or raw meat prepared from these animals.
- Went into hospitals where Ebola patients were being treated and had close contact with the patients.
- Touched the body of a person who died of Ebola.
You should check for signs and symptoms of Ebola for 21 days:
- Take your temperature every morning and evening.
- Watch for other Ebola symptoms, like severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
- Call your doctor even if you do not have symptoms. The doctor can evaluate your exposure level and any symptoms and consult with public health authorities to determine if actions are needed.
During the time that you are watching for signs and symptoms, you can continue your normal activities, including going to work.
If you get sick after you come back from an area with an Ebola outbreak:
- Get medical care RIGHT AWAY if you have a fever (higher than 101.5°F), severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
- Tell your doctor about your recent travel to West Africa or contact with a person who was sick with Ebola and your symptoms BEFORE you go to the doctor's office or emergency room. Calling before you go to the doctor's office or emergency
Just how deadly is Ebola?
Somewhere between 50 percent and 90 percent of the people who develop Ebola will die.
What's the incubation period for Ebola?
The time from infection with the virus to the onset of symptoms ranges from two to 21 days.
Is there a cure for Ebola?
Right now, there is no cure or vaccine. Doctors typically provide supportive care to patients, which may include oxygen, fluids, blood transfusions and treating subsequent infections. A few patients infected with the virus have been given experimental treatments, including doses of a promising drug called ZMapp. But supplies of ZMapp were limited and have since run out.
Several patients also appear to have been helped by blood transfusions from a person who survived Ebola and developed antibodies to the virus.
At the beginning of September, the National Institutes of Health began a clinical trial on a potential vaccine for the virus, but it is not being used on patients.
What's the history of Ebola?
Ebola first appeared in 1976. There were two simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The Congolese outbreak occurred in a village near the Ebola River, which is how the disease gets its name.
Fruit bats in the African forest are thought to be the natural host of the virus. In Africa, people have become infected through the handling of infected fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the wild.