We are currently in the midst of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. There are two patients that are being treated in Atlanta, Georgia at the moment and the rest of the patients so far are overseas. Many people have seen the movie Outbreak and have fears about the virus that may not be realistic because of the way that Hollywood plays up the disease. Tim Lahey, M.D. and Chris Basler, PhD, answered some of the most common questions about Ebola to try and assuage people’s fears.
1. How is Ebola spead? – The Ebola virus is spread through bodily fluid contact. You cannot get the disease by standing near someone who is infected but it is recommended that you stay away from blood, urine, feces, and saliva from people that have Ebola. It is not an airborne virus. If someone near you sneezes or coughs on you, there is a risk of transmission.
2. What kind of contact with bodily fluids are the biggest risks for transmission? – There haven’t been many studies that compare whether it is a bigger risk to have contact when your skin is intact or when you have a cut. Whenever a medical professional has to treat someone with Ebola they must wear a full gown, mask, and gloves just in case.
3. When are you contagious if you catch the virus? – You are not contagious until you begin showing symptoms. This can happen anywhere from two days to three weeks after you are infected.
4. If someone infected sneezes or coughs in a crowded area could everyone become infected? – It is unlikely that a crowd of people in a small space would be at risk for transmission but it is not impossible. It depends on who comes in contact with the person that sneezed and if any fluid from their nose or mouth came in contact with them. One of the biggest things to worry about is someone who is infected and does not know it and then travels to another country without the proper protection. Some airways have suspended flights to the countries that have the highest number of patients infected to minimize the risk of this happening.
5. Can Ebola be transmitted through s*xual contact? – Yes, if a person who is infected with Ebola has unprotected s*x the risk of transmission is high.
6. Can anyone who survives recover from the virus? – Yes, it takes a few weeks for a person to be cleared of the virus after they have beaten it.
7. What is the death rate? – The death rate is different in different countries as there are different medical procedures and medicines. It is much higher in European and African countries than in the US.