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FAQ: The Deadly Ebola Virus

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The Guinea government has banned bat soup, which is a delicacy in that country, to help stop the spread.  Adalja says he doesn’t know if that will help much, though, because the virus has already spilled over into humans. “The key message is to minimize bodily fluid exposures.”

Q. Is there a cure or a vaccine to protect against it?

A. No, but scientists are working on both. There is no specific treatment for Ebola. The only treatments available now are supportive kinds, such as IV fluids and, if available, medications to level out blood pressure, a respirator, and transfusions, Adalja says.

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, can help halt the spread of Ebola, Adalja says. Public health officials will have to wait a total of 6 weeks after the last case is reported before declaring the outbreak over, he 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.

The CDC says Ebola poses little risk to the U.S. Concern was raised after an Ebola-infected man from Liberia flew to the Nigerian capital of Lagos, only to die soon after arriving. But most flights between West Africa and the U.S. require one or more stops in other countries, making it unlikely a sick person could travel the entire distance, says Marty Cetron, director for Global Migration and Quarantine at the CDC.

“Because it’s not airborne, it would take very close contact with someone who is at an advanced stage of illness to become infected,” Ebola expert Thomas Geisbert tells HealthDay. Geisbert is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Institute for Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

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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