Ebola is a virus that causes severe illness in humans and nonhuman primates. It is thought to be contracted from bats but the exact origin is unknown at this time. The symptoms of the Ebola virus are flu like. Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. These symptoms are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, organ failure and bleeding, both internal and external.
Most cases of Ebola are from human-to-human contact. To become infected, infected blood or body fluid came into direct contact through broken skin or through a mucous membrane, eyes, mouth, lips, ears, genital area, and anus. Infection can also occur if a mucous membrane comes into contact with a contaminated surface.
To clear up rumors, Ebola is not transmitted through the air in droplets like the influenza virus or the common cold, food and water in the United States, shaking hands or any other casual contact. However, while not a symptom of Ebola, if an infected person coughs or sneezes and the saliva or mucus comes into contact with a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, the disease could be transmitted. Consuming undercooked wild meat or game meat in West Africa could potentially transmit the virus.
The incubation period of the Ebola virus is 2 to 21 days. That means that once infected, it may take up to 21 days before any symptoms are felt. However, the person infected is not contagious prior to demonstrating any symptoms.
Why is Ebola more scary than HIV? A symptomatic person infected with HIV may have a viral load of 100,000 to 1 million HIV virus particles in every milliliter of blood. A symptomatic person infected with Ebola may have a viral load of 5 billion to 50 billion in every milliliter of blood. This means that there is so much virus inside the person, it will even be excreted in sweat. The chances of a caregiver coming in contact with a large enough volume to become infected increase exponentially with viral load numbers this high.
People who have traveled to areas of the world where Ebola is an issue should be quarantined for the incubation period of at least 21 days. If suspected of contracting the Ebola virus, only level 4 biosafety facilities are properly equipped to handle the virus and those infected with it. These level 4 facilities are properly contained and have all the safety gear needed in order for caregivers to take care of patients without coming into contact with the virus while keeping the virus contained. Caregivers are to be very vigilant with cleaning surfaces with 10% bleach solution. All clothing and linens of infected patients should be destroyed.
The odds of coming in contact with the Ebola virus in the United States are very slim. The virus multiplies rapidly resulting in extremely high amounts of the virus in an infected person’s body fluid. Wash your hands and clean all surfaces with a 10% bleach solution to clean surfaces.