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Ebola

Updated October 27, 2014

What is Ebola?
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
How is Ebola spread?
How can I keep from getting Ebola?   
If I’ve been exposed to Ebola, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
How long is someone with Ebola contagious?
What treatments are available for Ebola? How serious is the disease?
How many cases of Ebola have been reported in the U.S.?
What are American health officials doing to prevent the spread of Ebola?
What are Northern Kentucky officials doing?
I have plans to travel to Africa or recently returned, what should I do?
Where can I get more information on Ebola?

What is Ebola?
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is one of numerous viral hemorrhagic fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease. When infection occurs, symptoms usually begin abruptly.

The first Ebola illness was identified in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.
 
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
Common symptoms of Ebola include:

Other symptoms may include:

How is Ebola spread?
Ebola is spread through direct contact with the virus through the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person or exposure to objects (like needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

The virus is not spread through the air or through casual person-to-person contact. A person in protective gear to work with Ebola patientsEbola is not spread before a person has symptoms, and the virus is more likely to spread as an infected person becomes more severely ill, meaning that contact with someone who just recently became ill is lower risk than someone who has been ill for several days.

In Africa, Ebola is often spread in families, as family members come in close contact with an ill person when caring for him/her or while preparing a deceased body for burial. It is also commonly spread in health care settings if staff have not followed proper protective protocols (wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and gloves, sterilizing or disposing of materials and  instruments, etc.)

In the U.S., Ebola has been spread from an infected person to a health care worker.

How can I keep from getting Ebola?    
To prevent Ebola:

If I’ve been exposed to Ebola, how long will it take for symptoms to develop? 
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the Ebola virus, though 8-10 days is most common.

How long is someone with Ebola contagious?
A person with Ebola is contagious as long as he/she is showing symptoms and until cleared by medical professionals.

Ebola is not spread before a person has symptoms, and the virus is more likely to spread as an infected person becomes more severely ill, meaning that contact with someone who just recently became ill is lower risk than someone who has been ill for several days.

What treatments are available for Ebola? How serious is the disease?
At this time, there is no approved treatment for Ebola itself; however people with it can be given supportive care to help their bodies fight the virus. This includes: fluids to replace those lost in vomiting and diarrhea, medication to bring down fevers, and antibiotics for complications. Research for additional treatments is underway.

A person who is suspected to have Ebola must be isolated and those caring for him/her must use the appropriate personal protective equipment. Health officials should be notified immediately.

Ebola is very serious. In some outbreaks, up to 90 percent of cases were fatal.

How many cases of Ebola have been reported in the U.S.?
To date, Ebola infections have been reported in the U.S. in health care workers who cared for a person with Ebola, both in the U.S. and in West Africa. Cases have also been reported in people who were exposed in other countries, but became ill after arriving in the U.S.

Medical experts have also treated a small number of patients that were infected while in Africa then transported to the U.S. under stringent protective steps.

What are American health officials doing to prevent the spread of Ebola?
The current Ebola outbreak does not pose an immediate threat to the American public. It is centered in three countries in West Africa: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, although there is the potential for further spread to neighboring African countries. Travelers in these countries are being screened for disease before leaving, after arriving and will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days after arriving in the U.S. American officials are also working with the governments of these countries to contain the Ebola outbreak.

Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local health officials have notified health care providers in the U.S. to be aware of Ebola, particularly in people with a history of travel to affected countries.

What are Northern Kentucky officials doing?
In Northern Kentucky, our health care system is also preparing to respond to Ebola and other communicable diseases. The Health Department works closely with our partners at hospitals to indentify illnesses, investigate them as needed, and provide the necessary treatment.

Information on screening for Ebola has been given to local health care providers, emergency medical personnel and the airport. There is regular communication between these groups as the situation in the U.S. changes.

In Dallas and New York City, local health department officials are involved in the identification of contacts of the infection person. Epidemiologists are trained to do similar work for any communicable disease in Northern Kentucky.

While Ebola is a serious disease and is new in the U.S., the risk of infection among the general public in Northern Kentucky is very low. More common illnesses, like influenza or pneumonia, are far more serious health threats at this time.

I have plans to travel to Africa or recently returned, what should I do?
On July 31, the CDC issued a travel alert for three countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, recommending that Americans avoid non-essential travel. The alert is meant to do two things: to protect US residents who may be planning travel to the affected areas and to enable the governments of these countries to respond most effectively to contain this outbreak.

Those who have travel to Africa will be monitored for 21 days after their return. The level of monitoring will vary based on the individual's risk of contracting Ebola.

Where can I get more information on Ebola?
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.