With the recent Ebola outbreak around the world and in areas not familiar with the disease, many people are fearful and looking for basic information.  This article provides practical advice so you can avoid and prevent Ebola virus transmission.

What is Ebola?

What is ebola

Ebola is a virus that attacks cells important to the function of the lymphatic system.  Symptoms of this disease start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus and include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Decreased liver and kidney function
  • Internal and external bleeding

How Does Ebola Spread?

Ebola is not airborne . It does not seem to spread by being in close proximity, or by casual contact. Sitting next to a person with Ebola is likely not enough to transmit the disease. 

All the available information is that Ebola spreads from person to person through contact with bodily fluids. So, it is recommended that you avoid contact with infected individuals’ sweat, saliva, breast milk, semen, vomit, blood, or other bodily fluids.  It is also possible for the pathogen to become aerosolized via sneeze, nebulizer, respirator, etc.  The success of avoiding the disease depends on your ability to identify infected individuals and/or avoid the risk of exposure to the Ebola virus.  Thus the remainder of this article will focus on actions you can take to avoid undetectable Ebola virus.

1. Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose, and Mouth

While not as durable as cold or flu virus, Ebola can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. Because of this, rubbing your eye or biting your nails while in public places puts you at risk.

2. Wash or Sanitize Your Hands Thoroughly and Often

Use soap, warm water and scrub for at least 15 seconds. Keep 60 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizers around for times when sinks aren't available. Remind kids to wash up each time they use the bathroom, before they eat, and after they come home from activities. Remember to set a good example, too.

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3. Limit Contact with Others Who Appear Ill

If someone you are around appears sick or complains of some of these common symptoms take action to limit your contact and potential for a possible infection disease. Identify alternative seating arrangements if you are at work, in a theater or on a bus. Avoid sharing washcloths, bedding, dishes, toys, tools and utensils. If the situation arises, politely remind others to cover their cough or sneeze. Wear protective gloves, masks and eyewear when caring for sick friends or family members.

**Update (10/16)

With recent developments, the CDC is rethinking their recommendations around protective wear for healthcare workers.  Moving closer to what many people think of as "hazmat suits" including the following features: full hoods, enhanced face masks with face sheilds that minimize skin exposure, two layers of golves. (See below)

Protect against ebolaCredit: photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cdcglobal/15130688115/">CDC Global Health</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a

Additional ways to avoid Ebola

  • Avoid bush meat
  • Don’t handle remains
  • Avoid contact with bats and non-human primates

Vaccine development

Scientists are working on a variety of vaccines that would protect people from Ebola or Marburg viruses. Some of the results have been promising, but further testing is needed before a vaccine becomes available.