Monday, August 04, 2014

Get Ready Mailbag: Get the facts on Ebola

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

I’ve been hearing about Ebola in the news. What is it? Should I be worried about catching it?

Ebola is in the news lately because there is an outbreak occurring in four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. There have been more than 1,600 cases and about 880 deaths in the outbreak. It doesn’t pose a significant risk for the general public in America, however.

Graphic courtesy CDC
Ebola is caused by a virus. The virus spreads between humans by contact with body fluids — such as blood, urine and sweat — or through objects that have been contaminated with infected fluids, like needles. Ebola can’t be spread through air, food or water. The only way to get it is to be in direct contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms.

Symptoms of Ebola can include fever, headache, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and abnormal bleeding. There is no cure. However, early health care including hydration can increase the chance for survival.

The people most at risk for Ebola are health care workers who care for infected patients. In Atlanta, doctors at Emory University Hospital will be caring for two American patients with Ebola who caught the disease in Africa and are being transported here. The doctors will be using practices such as isolation to prevent the spread of the disease to health workers and other hospital patients. The hospital has a special isolation unit to treat patients who are exposed to serious infectious diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also working to make sure that Ebola is not carried to the U.S. via travelers, assisting with screening and education, providing guidance to plane personnel and advising Americans not to travel to the affected countries.

So, in short, if you’re a member of the general public here in the U.S., you don’t really have to be worried about catching Ebola. You’re much more likely to catch the flu.

For more information, read CDC’s Q&A on Ebola.

To assist public health workers responding to the Ebola outbreak, APHA has made the Ebola and Marburg virus chapter of its Control of Communicable Diseases Manual available for download for free.*

*Editor's note: The PDF is secured against alteration only and can be saved to your device, printed and shared. If you are asked for a password when accessing the PDF on your mobile device, please try the following:
1) Make sure you have the free Acrobat Reader app installed on your device
2) Tap or refresh the password screen until you see text at the top or bottom of the screen that says "Open in...."
3) Select the link for "Open in..." and then choose the Acrobat Reader app.

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