Answers to your questions about Ebola

October 28, 2014 in Preventive Care  •  By Robert Conners
Facts about ebola

We know that the media outlets have been saturated by news of the recent devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and we have received a number of concerned inquiries from members. We wanted to provide you with basic information about this virus and suggest, as always, that if you have any questions, you reach out to your PinnacleCare advisor.

Ebola is part of a family of viruses known as filoviridae that are among the most virulent pathogens of humans, causing severe hemorrhagic fever that resembles fulminant septic shock.

Contracting Ebola is quite difficult. It requires person-to-person transmission through direct contact with virus-containing body fluids (e.g., blood, vomitus, urine, feces) from a person who has developed active signs and symptoms of illness.  Thus, health care providers and the family and friends caring for an Ebola infected person are at the highest risk of getting sick.

It is not spread through the air like other viruses such as influenza (flu) and enterovirus (common cold). Nor is it likely to mutate to a virus that is transmitted via airborne droplets. In fact, historically there is little to no precedent that a virus has ever mutated to so radically change its mode of transmission. Take, for example, hepatitis and HIV. These are also viruses that require direct contact with blood or body fluids. You cannot contract diseases with these viruses, or Ebola, through passive contact on a plane or a grocery store.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. They include:

  • fever greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F
  • severe headache
  • muscle pain
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding and/or bruising).

Recovery from Ebola depends on early and 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. In fact, transfusions from patients who have recovered from Ebola can be effective at giving a patient newly infected with Ebola a head start on fighting the infection. Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but are still being tested for safety and effectiveness.

The current recommendations from the CDC are to avoid travel to the countries that have been hardest hit in West Africa: Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Careful personal hygiene is obviously paramount to preventing infection. This includes:

  • washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer
  • avoiding contact with blood or body fluids
  • avoiding handling items that have come into contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.

It is important to differentiate the facts from the psychology associated with such outbreaks. The CDC website has many useful tools on the current Ebola outbreak.  This is the best resource for the most up to date information including any new travel restrictions.