How is Ebola spread?
It is not known how Eboloa or the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is first spread to humans, but it is thought to be spread through close contact with blood, secretions or other body fluids of an infected animal.
Once the virus has been spread to humans, it is spread from person to person by contact with blood or bodily fluids (e.g., stool, urine, saliva, and semen) of an infected person; by contact with an object that is contaminated with the infected body fluids (e.g., used needles); or by contact with a deceased EVD patient.
EVD (also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) is a very serious, often deadly disease in humans and in infected animals such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees. A very large outbreak of EVD began in West Africa in March 2014 and is continuing.
What are the symptoms of EVD?
Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days following exposure, but often appear between eight and 10 days following exposure.
Some patients may experience:
- Red eyes
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bleeding inside/outside the body
Common symptoms include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
Who is at risk for EVD?
During Ebola outbreaks, people at the highest risk of getting the disease are health care workers (especially those caring for EVD patients or handling remains of a deceased EVD patient), and family and friends who are in close contact with and/or caring for an infected person.
Health care workers and friends and family members of EVD patients should wear protective equipment (e.g., masks, gowns and gloves) when caring for infected patients. Confirmed cases of EVD in the 2014 outbreak have been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In general, the risk of getting EVD is very low. People participating in animal research, travelers to areas where EVD outbreaks are occurring, health care workers in affected areas, and people who have contact with deceased EVD patients have a higher risk of getting the disease.
How do I know if I have EVD?
If you notice any signs or symptoms of EVD following travel to an affected area, STAY HOME from work, school and public gatherings and immediately CALL your health care provider. Do NOT visit the provider’s office or hospital before calling.
Be prepared to describe when your symptoms started, the dates you traveled and activities while you were traveling. When traveling to a health care provider, limit your contact with others. Any other travel should be avoided.
Diagnosis of the disease is made through laboratory testing. Your health care provider can arrange for testing.
How is EVD treated?
No antiviral medication is available to treat EVD. Treatment is limited to relieving symptoms.
This may include:
- Replacing fluids and electrolytes
- Maintaining oxygen and blood pressure levels
- Treating for other infections that may also be present
How is EVD prevented?
At this time there is no vaccine to prevent EVD. Understanding the nature of the disease and how it is spread are important ways to prevent it from spreading further.
Several steps can be taken to prevent people from getting EVD:
- When traveling to affected areas, follow the CDC guidance for travel precautions found at CDC.gov.
- Avoid visiting areas with outbreaks of EVD.
- Avoid contact with animals (e.g., rodents and bats) in affected countries.
- Use insecticide-treated bed nets and wear insect repellent.
- Avoid eating primates, bats and other bushmeat in affected countries.
- Listen to and follow the directions given by health care providers and public health officials.
When visiting patients in the hospital or caring for someone at home, hand washing with soap and water is recommended after touching a patient, being in contact with their bodily fluids or touching his/her surroundings.
If you suspect someone close to you or in your community of having Ebola virus disease, encourage and support them in seeking appropriate medical treatment by calling a health care provider.