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Ebola FAQ: What you need to know

Who is most at risk of catching Ebola?

Healthcare workers, because they are likely to come in contact with blood or other bodily fluids of patients.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Seek medical care immediately if you develop a fever of 101.5 and any of these symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding. Tell your doctor about recent travel and your symptoms before you go to the office or the emergency room. That way, in case you are diagnosed with Ebola, doctors can protect others who may be in the office or in the area.

How could I catch Ebola?

Ebola is transmitted through contact (through mucus membranes or broken skin) with the bodily fluids of a victim — blood, saliva, semen and other secretions. In other words, if blood from an infected patient got into a cut on your hand, you could become sick. Also, the bodies of those who have died of Ebola are extremely infectious.

What did they do with Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan’s body?

Strict guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were followed and his body was to be cremated. The preparation for leaving the hospital room included wrapping the body in a plastic shroud and placing it in two bags, using disinfectant as the process went along. See CDC guidelines for healthcare workers, including for those handling remains, at www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/index.html.

What about his hospital room?

An entire 24-bed intensive-care unit was secured and dedicated to Duncan’s care, according to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. The treatment area is sealed and is being “aggressively decontaminated,” a statement from the hospital says.

How long is a patient contagious?

The incubation period to show symptoms is two to 21 days. The average is eight to 10 days.

When can an infected person spread Ebola?

It spreads only when someone is sick — that is, displaying symptoms. Then it can be spread through contact with objects (such as clothes, bedding, needles or medical equipment) that have been contaminated.

What about animals?

Ebola can be spread through contact with infected wild animals or from handling bushmeat from wild animals hunted for food in Africa.

But what about the dog that was euthanized in Spain for potentially carrying Ebola?

From CDC Director Tom Frieden on Tuesday: “There is one article in the medical literature that discusses the presence of antibodies to Ebola in dogs. Whether that was an accurate test and whether that was a relevant test, we don’t know, but we want to look at all possibilities. We have not identified this as a means of transmission. We do know in rural areas of Africa, that Ebola can infect mammals. In fact, that’s how it spreads, from probably bats to animals living in the forest, people hunting the animals. When they hunt the animals and prepare them for serving, they may become infected from the food that is involved. We don’t think this would be a means of transmission, and I can’t comment on the specifics of Spain.”

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms include headache, sudden fever, fatigue, muscle pain and sore throat. Those are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding (oozing from the gums, blood in stools).

How big can the outbreak in West Africa become?

The CDC said Sept. 23 that in the worst scenario, cases could reach 1.4 million in four months. That model is based on data from August and includes cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone but not Guinea (where counts have been unreliable).

Is it always fatal?

No. In the current West African outbreak, 1 in 2 infected people has died. A total of 3,865 patients have died as of Oct. 9. Authorities report that 4,461 of a total 8,033 cases were laboratory-confirmed.

What is the cure?

There is no cure. But supportive care, including hydration, greatly improves the chances of survival. Two possible vaccinations are being evaluated.

Can people be reinfected?

Those who recover from Ebola develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

Where did Ebola originate?

Ebola was discovered in 1976, and scientists say that the fruit bat is the natural host and that other wild animals such as monkeys also carry it.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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