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Ebola Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. Where can I get reliable information about Ebola?

A. Consult the following authoritative sources containing more detailed information regarding Ebola (known formally as Ebola Virus Disease, or EVD) and the most updated status of suspected/confirmed cases in affected countries:

The WHO website, in particular, contains detailed information on what Ebola virus disease is, a history of past outbreaks, symptoms, preventative steps that can be taken and the latest known information concerning the current outbreak.

Q. What is Ebola virus disease?

A. The Ebola strain in the Guinea outbreak is the most lethal of the five known strains of the virus. It is called Ebola Zaire and can kill up to 9 out of 10 infected people. The present case fatality rate in this outbreak is around 60%. The severity of the outbreak is a result of weaknesses in national healthcare systems, community fear, resistance and stigmatization, inappropriate use of personal protective equipment and unsafe burial practices. During the current outbreak, most of the disease has spread through human-to-human transmission.

Q. What are the typical signs and symptoms of Ebola?

A. It can take 2 – 21 days for symptoms to appear after a person is exposed to the virus. Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Men who have recovered from Ebola can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery. For this reason, it is important to either avoid sexual intercourse or to wear condoms during sexual intercourse for 7 weeks after recovery. In the deceased, Ebola virus can live for several days after death. For this reason, it is important not to touch or kiss the body of a deceased person as this can contribute to continued disease spread. More detailed information may be found on the WHO website and the sources mentioned above.

Q. How do you get Ebola?

A. A person is not contagious until he/she is acutely ill. When a person is showing symptoms, they are most likely to give the disease to others through direct contact and contact with objects contaminated with body fluids (e.g. syringes). An infected person’s body fluids carry the virus. This means saliva, mucus, blood, urine, feces, semen, vomit, breast milk, and sweat can transmit the virus. The virus is also very contagious from the bodies of people who have died of Ebola, which is why preparing their bodies for burial is dangerous and should be performed by medical care professionals. Some bush animals may also transmit the virus to humans if the humans handle infected animals or eat infected bush meat, especially from fruit bats and monkeys/apes. While the initial case of Ebola in this outbreak was the result of someone handling an infected animal, nearly all cases since have spread through human-to-human transmission.

Health workers have frequently been exposed to the virus when caring for Ebola patients. This happened because they did not take simple measures, such as wearing personal protection gear, including gloves, when caring for an infected patient. Health care providers at all levels of the health system – hospitals, clinics and health posts – should strictly follow WHO recommended infection control precautions. .