The news on TV and online is all about the Ebola Virus. A lot of people are asking, “Should I be concerned about this?” As a Mom and a Pediatrician, I appreciate the concerns so many people have. In addition to the American Academy of Pediatrics resource page we posted a few weeks ago, here’s another summary of information about Ebola.
WHAT IS EBOLA?
The Ebola Virus is a rare and deadly virus cause by infection with an Ebola virus strain. Ebola viruses found in several African countries cause disease in humans and non-human primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). The natural reservoir host of Ebola Virus remains unclear, but it is suspected that African bats are the most likely host.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), along with other government agencies and the World Health Organization (WHO), is taking precautions to help prevent the possible spread of Ebola. Enhanced entry screening at five U.S. airports will evaluate over 94% of travelers from the affected countries in West Africa.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF EBOLA?
The signs and symptoms of Ebola are fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal (stomach) pain, and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising). Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
HOW DO YOU GET EBOLA?
The main way a person in the United States could contract Ebola virus is via DIRECT contact with another person infected by Ebola — through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth. You must be in contact with the blood or body fluids (such as urine, salvia, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, or semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola. You could also contract Ebola through contact with objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus, or infected animals able to carry the virus (including include bats, monkeys, and apes).
As the graphic above points out, Ebola is NOT spread through the air, by water, or, in general, by food. In Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. There have been no cases of cats or dogs having Ebola virus.
Health care providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick, because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients. Once someone recovers from Ebola, he/she can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months.
Ebola can only be spread after symptoms begin.
HOW IS EBOLA DIAGNOSED?
If a person has early symptoms of Ebola and has had contact with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola, or contact with infected animals, they should be isolated. Public health should be notified, and laboratory tests can be done to confirm the disease.
HOW IS EBOLA TREATED?
There is no vaccine nor medicine (such as an antiviral drug) available for Ebola. Symptoms are treated as they appear. Treatments can include IV fluids, oxygen, and treating any other infections. Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response.
For additional information about Ebola and the extra efforts being done to protect the spread of Ebola, see the CDC website.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Don’t panic — no matter how sensational the news coverage. The virus is not spread in the air or water we drink. You can only get the virus if you come in direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. Using common precautions such as washing your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer is always a good idea — for prevention of the viruses you’re much more likely to catch over the next few months.
As always, you can call our office any time if you have questions or concerns.
Dr. DItte Karlovits joined Kids Plus in 2012.