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Oct. 21, 2014 - USA Shares Information About Ebola (Updated)

USA Children's & Women's Evaluation Center Medical Director Dr. Jason Richerson shared this information about the Ebola Virus Disease, based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To learn more, please consult the CDC website at and the Alabama Department of Public Health website at


What is Ebola?

Ebola is a virus that causes hemorrhagic fever and is often fatal in humans and primates.


What are the signs and symptoms of Ebola?

These include:

  • Fever (greater than 38°C or 100.4°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising

*It is important to note that these symptoms are very common in many infections, including influenza. Early vaccination for influenza could be helpful in preventing an illness that may mimic Ebola.


How is Ebola transmitted?

Ebola is transmitted by either direct contact with the blood or body fluids (including but not limited to feces, saliva, urine, vomit, and semen) or by contact with objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of an infected person or with infected animals. The virus can enter another human via the described blood or fluids above, through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).

*Ebola is NOT an airborne pathogen: meaning it is not spread like the common cold. You also cannot become infected by inanimate objects (such as shopping carts, tables, chairs, etc.). It is important to understand that you have to come into direct contact (as described above) with an INFECTED individual (those displaying signs and symptoms) to become infected with the virus.


What is the incubation period (time from exposure until showing symptoms)?

Ebola typically starts to cause symptoms anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure (average is 8 to 10 days).

*This means that a person who has been to an endemic area and is NOT showing symptoms or has been outside the endemic area for more than 3 weeks, is NOT considered contagious.


Where are these endemic areas with high risk of exposure?

Ebola is found in several African countries:

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  • Gabon
  • South Sudan
  • Ivory Coast
  • Uganda
  • Republic of the Congo (ROC)
  • South Africa (imported)
  • Guinea
  • Liberia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Senegal

*Again, travel to these areas is not a cause for concern if the person has been outside the area for more than 3 weeks and has shown no signs or symptoms. The person must be actively displaying symptoms to be contagious. There do not appear to be any “silent” spreaders of the virus.


How is Ebola diagnosed?

The combination of symptoms as described above AND exposure to an INFECTED individual’s blood or body fluids is important in identifying those likely to be infected with Ebola. There are blood tests to confirm infection with the virus.


How is Ebola treated?

Ebola is treated by addressing the symptoms. There is currently no specific vaccination or medicine to treat Ebola, although experimental drugs are being used in many countries. Basic interventions like intravenous fluids, balancing electrolytes, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating other infections if they occur are the mainstays of treatment for individuals infected with Ebola. Mortality rates range between 50-70%, but it is theorized that in developed countries such as the United States, where adequate health care is available, these numbers might be much lower.


Must know:

  • If you have traveled to the areas listed above or have come into direct contact with someone who is both displaying symptoms AND has been to highly endemic areas within the last 3 weeks, and you begin experiencing the signs and symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately. Notify the healthcare provider immediately of your travel history/exposure and possible infection with Ebola to help contain the virus. You will be asked to give a log of people you have come in contact with while displaying symptoms so that they can be isolated and monitored for signs of infection. You will be promptly isolated, treated, and tested for the virus. These steps are important in preventing further spread!
  • You likely CANNOT get Ebola from individuals who are NOT symptomatic regardless of their travel history.
  • Remember proper hand washing is very effective at preventing the spread of most communicable diseases.
  • Don’t panic! Your chance of contracting Ebola is small.


Information based on the CDC website:

Updated Oct. 21, 2014: Nigeria was removed from the list of affected African countries. That country has been declared free of the virus.

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