Ebola Prevention: What You Need to Know


The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is getting out of control, according to health experts, with a recent rapid increase in the reported cases. Although the risk of spreading the disease into other parts of the world is relatively low, health authorities around the world are issuing guidance on general Ebola prevention. Here is what you need to know about Ebola, whether you are traveling or not.

The Ebola virus disease, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a serious, potentially deadly illness with an estimated current fatality rate of 53%. The current outbreak began in March, 2014 and has spread across several West African countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. This is the worst Ebola outbreak in history and still, there is no vaccine or treatment for Ebola proved effective. Two vaccines could be ready as early as November, while experimental drugs are currently used for treating some of the patients.

What are the symptoms?

The incubation period from infection to the time when symptoms start to appear is 2 days to 3 weeks, but usually between the 8th and 10th day. Initial symptoms are similar to those of the flu and include fever, weakness, joint, muscle and abdominal pain, headache, and sore throat. Then they are followed by loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, rash, as well as impaired kidney and liver function. Less common symptoms include chest pain, hiccups, shortness of breath and troubles swallowing. Sometimes, there is internal and external bleeding. The symptoms are often very severe and damaging to the body – it is them who kill the patient, not the virus itself. If the patient doesn’t recover and symptoms aren’t eased, multiple organ dysfunction syndrome often becomes the reason for death between the 7th to the 16th day after the first symptoms.


The Ebola virus is transmitted from human to human, or as in previous outbreaks, from infected animals (primates, dogs, bats) to humans through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Not only the sick people are contagious, but the diseased, as well. The infection may occur also by contact with contaminated objects such as needles, bed sheets, clothes, and so on.


Although the risk of transmission is low, even if you travel to the affected countries, there are several things you should know. Basic hygiene measures can prevent infection – you need to avoid infected people, as well as those who are diseased. Traditional burial rituals should be avoided – in fact, you should not even touch the diseased; regular hand washing with soap and water is recommended – even if you haven’t touched the patient. All the furniture and objects in the ill person’s immediate surroundings can be contaminated. You should also use alcohol rub throughout the day. Boiling and using detergents, bleach and alcohol-based products also kill the virus.

Of course, these recommendations should be followed only if you actually have some contact with an infected person. Those who travel and are concerned of possible Ebola infection on planes, should stick to one basic rule – no physical contact with strangers. Wash your hands and avoid sick people, and in case if you see a traveler with Ebola-like symptoms, alert airline personnel. Overall, the risk from infection is really low.

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