Ebola is a rare severe disease, often fatal, caused by the Ebola virus. It is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids(e.g. saliva, urine) from infected people, dead or alive.
This includes unprotected sexual contact with patients up to seven weeks after they have recovered. You can also catch the disease from direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids from wild animals, dead or alive, such as monkeys, forest antelopes and bats. Ebola virus does not transmit through the air as influenza does.
After two days and up to 21 days following exposure to the virus the disease may start suddenly with fever, muscle aches, weakness, headache and sore throat.
The next stage of the disease is characterised by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and malfunction of the liver and kidneys. Some patients also have profuse internal and external bleeding and multi-organ failure. There is no specific vaccine or treatment for the disease.
Risk of Infection with Ebola Virus and How to Avoid it
Even if you are living in, or have travelled to, affected areas, the risk of infection with Ebola virus is extremely low, unless you have been directly exposed to bodily fluids of a dead or living infected person or animal. Contact with bodily fluids includes unprotected sexual contact with patients up to seven weeks after they have recovered.
Casual contact in public places with people that do not appear to be sick do not transmit Ebola. You cannot contract Ebola virus by handling money, groceries or swimming in a pool.
Mosquitoes do not transmit the Ebola virus.
Ebola virus is easily killed by soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. Machine washing clothes that have been contaminated with fluids will destroy Ebola virus.
Ebola virus survives only a short time on surfaces that are in the sun or have dried.
Controlling Infection in Health-Care Settings
Human-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus is primarily associated with direct or indirect contact with blood and body fluids. Transmission to health-care workers has been reported when appropriate infection control measures have not been observed.
It is not always possible to identify patients with EBV early because initial symptoms may be non-specific. For this reason, it is important that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times.
These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of personal protective equipment (according to the risk of splashes or other contact with infected materials), safe injection practices and safe burial practices.
Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply, in addition to standard precautions, other infection control measures to avoid any exposure to the patient’s blood and body fluids and direct unprotected contact with the possibly contaminated environment.
When in close contact (within 1 metre) of patients with EBV, health-care workers should wear face protection (a face shield or a medical mask and goggles), a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves (sterile gloves for some procedures).
Laboratory workers are also at risk. Samples taken from suspected human and animal Ebola cases for diagnosis should be handled by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories.
There is currently an outbreak of Ebola in Guinea and Liberia. The following information give some advice for travellers arriving in, or departing from affected areas.
The risk that you will be exposed to the Ebola virus is extremely low. The following preventive measures should eliminate the risk of getting infected.
Advice to People Arriving in Guinea or Liberia
1. Avoid direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of a patient or a corpse and with objects possibly contaminated
2. Avoid close contact with wild animals and consumption of ‘bush meat’
3. Avoid having unprotected sexual intercourse
Advice to People Departing from Guinea or Liberia
The risk that you have been exposed to the Ebola virus is extremely low. However: If you develop fever, unexplained fatigue, diarrhoea or any other severe symptoms in the few weeks following a departure from a tropical area, you should:
1. Seek rapid medical attention mentioning your travel history, since it may result from an infection like malaria that requires immediate investigation and treatment.
2. If you have been directly exposed to any bodily fluids from a dead or living infected person or animal, including unprotected sexual contact with patients that have recovered, you should.
3. Seek rapid medical attention mentioning your travel history.
4. Contact the medical care facility by phone before your visit, in order to enable medical personnel to use appropriate protection at the time of admission.
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