Ebola

Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species. Ebola can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). Ebola viruses are found in several African countries. Since March 2014, West Africa has experienced the largest outbreak of Ebola in history, with multiple countries affected.

Symptoms
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising (hemorrhaging)
Symptoms may appear 2-21 days after exposure, 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.

Transmission
Ebola is spread through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, or mouth, etc) with:
  • blood or body fluids including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen of a person infected 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 mosquitoes 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. During outbreaks of Ebola, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings. Dedicated medical equipment should be used by healthcare personnel providing patient care. Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, such as needles and syringes, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be sterilized before being used again. Without adequate sterilization of the instruments, virus transmission can continue and amplify an outbreak.

Diagnosis
Diagnosing Ebola in an person who has been infected for only a few days is difficult because the early symptoms are similar to some commonly occurring diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever. If a person has the early symptoms of Ebola and has had contact with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola, contact with objects that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola, or contact with infected animals, they should be isolated and public health professionals notified. Samples from the patient can then be collected and tested to confirm infection.

Prevention
There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. If you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola outbreak, make sure to do the following:
  • Practice careful hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
  • After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.
Healthcare workers who may be exposed to people with Ebola should follow these steps: There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. 

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