The Ebola virus has been in the news. The current outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea has killed thousands. Despite the frenzied commentary of some journalists, there is no danger of an outbreak in the United States. Drug resistant bacteria and motor vehicle accidents kill more people in the United States than this Ebola outbreak (current statistics from the World Health Organization show that 4,500 people have died so far).
Yes, Ebola is a serious disease that kills between 60 and 90 percent of those who contract it, but it is not highly contagious. The host is the fruit bat. People get the disease when bodily fluids (blood, saliva, feces, urine, semen) enter the body through broken skin or mucous membranes. The disease is not airborne. It can only be transmitted via direct contact, which is why health care workers are at high risk if they do not take proper precautions.
The symptoms are similar to many common infections such as the flu: fever, weakness, muscle aches, sore throat, so unless the patient tells his/her health care provider about possible contact, diagnosis may be delayed. It is important to isolate Ebola patients so that uninfected people who do not have training and protective gear will not have contact with bodily fluids. Treatment is supportive care. There are no medications that will cure and no vaccines to prevent the disease. If the disease is caught early and the patient gets good supportive care by trained staff, there is a chance for survival.
Referenc eLibrarian/Consumer Health Information Specialist, Main Library