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FAQ: The Deadly Ebola Virus

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Q. Why do some people survive the virus?

A. That’s hard to say. Adalja thinks several things might play a role, such as a person's age and genetic makeup, and whether they have other medical conditions. Those aren't proven factors, though.

Q. How can the outbreak be stopped?

A. Simple steps to control infection, such as gowns, gloves, and eye protection, will bring an end to it, Adalja says. “Once basic hygiene is implemented,” he says, “I believe this Ebola outbreak will extinguish itself, as they all have in the past.” Public health officials will have to wait a total of 6 weeks after the last case is reported before declaring the outbreak over, Adalja says.

Q. Could an Ebola outbreak happen in the United States?

Since the virus was first identified, all of the outbreaks in people have happened in Africa. It's possible that an infected person who appeared to be healthy could board a plane in Africa and fly to the U.S., Adalja says. But “it’s not something that we’ve ever seen before.” The outbreaks generally have happened in poor, isolated communities, so those infected didn’t have the resources to travel far.

One of the five Ebola virus strains caused an outbreak in laboratory monkeys in Reston, VA, outside Washington, DC. People who were exposed to that strain of Ebola virus did not get sick. But they developed antibodies to it. There have been no reports of Ebola illnesses or death in people in the U.S., Adalja says.

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