Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Frequently Asked Questions about Ebola

Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets

General Questions and Answers

What is Ebola?

Ebola, also known as Ebola virus disease (EVD), is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains (Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, or Tai Forest virus). Ebola virus is the cause of a viral hemorrhagic fever disease. Signs and Symptoms include: fever(greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F) , headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus, though 8-10 days is most common.

Where is the current outbreak occurring?

The current Ebola outbreak is centered on three countries in West Africa: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone; although there is the potential for further spread to neighboring African countries. Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public. The standard and rigorous infection control procedures used in major hospitals in the U.S. will prevent the spread of Ebola here.

How is Ebola transmitted?

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes)with the blood or bodily fluids (urine, feces, saliva, vomit, and semen) of an infected symptomatic person or though exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food; however, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats.

Can Ebola be transmitted through the air - coughing/sneezing?

No. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air. Unlike respiratory illnesses like measles or chickenpox, which can be transmitted by virus particles that remain suspended in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids of a person who has symptoms of Ebola disease. Although coughing and sneezing are not common symptoms of Ebola, if a symptomatic patient with Ebola coughs or sneezes on someone, and saliva or mucus come into contact with that person's eyes, nose or mouth, these fluids may transmit the disease.

What does "direct contact" mean?

Direct contact means that body fluids (blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine, or feces) from an infected person (alive or dead) have touched someone's eyes, nose, or mouth or an open cut, wound, or abrasion.

How long does Ebola live outside the body?

Ebola is killed with hospital-grade disinfectants (such as household bleach). Ebola on dried on surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops can survive for several hours; however, virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature.

Are patients who recover from Ebola immune for life? Can they get it again - the same or a different strain?

Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and a patient's immune response. Available evidence shows that people who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer.

We don't know if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola.

If someone survives Ebola, can he or she still spread the virus?

Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. People who recover from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex or use condoms for 3 months.

Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?

No. Ebola is not a food-borne illness. It is not a water-borne illness.

Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn't have any symptoms?

No. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms.

Can Ebola be spread through mosquitos?

There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to spread and become infected with Ebola virus.

Prevention

How do I protect myself against Ebola?

If you are in or traveling to an area affected by the Ebola outbreak, protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of any person, particularly some one who is sick.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids.
  • Do not touch the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Do not touch bats and nonhuman primates or their blood and fluids and do not touch or eat raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on medical facilities.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (temperature of 10 1.5°F/ 38.6°C) and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
  • Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else besi des a healthcare facility.

CDC has issued a Warning, Level 3 travel notice for three countries. U.S. citizens should avoid all nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. CDC has issued an Alert, Level 2 travel notice for Nigeria. Travelers t o Nigeria should take enhanced precautions to prevent Ebola. For travel notices and other information for travelers, visit the Travelers' Health Ebola web page.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Current Situation

What is being done to prevent ill passengers in West Africa from getting on a plane?

CDC is assisting with active screening and education efforts on the ground in West Africa to prevent sick travelers from getting on planes. In addition, airports in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are screening all outbound passengers for Ebola symptoms, including fever, and passengers are required to respond to a health care questionnaire. CDC is also increasing support to the region by deploying 50 additional workers to help build capacity on the ground.

What is CDC doing in the U.S.?

On the remote possibility that an ill passenger enters the U.S., CDC has protocols in place to protect against further spread of the disease. These include notification to CDC of ill passengers on a plane before arrival, investigation of ill travelers, and, if necessary, isolation. CDC has also provided guidance to airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft. CDC has issued a Health Alert Notice reminding U.S. health care workers of the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus, how to test and isolate suspected patients and how they can protect themselves from infection.

What about ill Americans with Ebola who are being brought to the U.S. for treatment? How is CDC protecting the American public?

CDC has very well-established protocols in place to ensure the care of patients with infectious diseases and their safe transport back to the U.S. These procedures cover the entire process -- from patients leaving their bed in a foreign country to their transport to an airport and boarding a non-commercial airplane equipped with a special transport isolation unit, to their arrival at a medical facility in the United States that is appropriately equipped and staffed to handle such cases. CDC's role is to ensure that travel and hospitalization is done to minimize risk of spread of infection and to ensure that the American public is protected. Patients were evacuated in similar ways during SARS.

What does the CDC's Travel Alert Level 3 mean to U.S. travelers?

On July 31, the CDC elevated their warning to U.S. citizens encouraging them to defer unnecessary travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone over concerns that travelers may not have access to health care facilities and personnel should they need them in country.