Ebola virus disease (EVD), also called hemorrhagic fever, first appeared in 1976. It was named after a river in the Congo near the village where the first known human-to-human transfer of the disease took place. Ebola is a severe, often fatal disease.
Ebola is spread through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. Ebola is not spread through the air, water, or food.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the countries most severely affected during this outbreak – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – have very weak health systems. The disease spread rapidly due, in part, to a lack of trained and properly equipped public health workers and facilities for isolation and treatment. In addition, lack of knowledge, social traditions, and suspicion of the motives of public health officials have hindered public health officials from identifying, isolating and treating Ebola patients in parts of Africa.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person infected with Ebola can’t spread the disease until symptoms appear. The time from exposure to when signs or symptoms of the disease appear – the incubation period – is 2 to 21 days, but the average time is 8 to 10 days. Signs of Ebola include fever (higher than 101.5°F) and symptoms like severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Currently, there is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. Experimental vaccines and treatments are under development and have been used on some patients treated in the US, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.
How can you protect yourself against Ebola?
Dr. Angela Sukstorf, Fremont Health's Infectious Disease Specialist, has the following suggestions for protecting yourself from Ebola or other infectious diseases like influenza, pneumonia, and the common cold:
If you have traveled outside the United States in the last 30 days to an Ebola- affected area in Africa, or been exposed to an Ebola patient, you should contact your physician immediately if you show any symptoms associated with the disease (fever, headache, weakness, muscle pain, vomiting, abdominal pain, bleeding).
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