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FAQ: The Deadly Ebola Virus

Ebola: Frequently Asked Questions continued...

“The key message is to minimize bodily fluid exposures,” Adalja says.

Q. What precautions should people take if they’re concerned they might come in contact with someone infected with Ebola?

A. “Ebola is very hard to catch,” Adalja emphasizes. Infected people are contagious only after symptoms appear, by which time close contacts, such as health care workers and family members, would use “universal precautions.” That's an infection control approach in which all blood and certain body fluids are treated as if they are infectious for diseases that can be borne in them, Adalja says.

Even though the virus can be transmitted by kissing or sex, people with Ebola symptoms are so sick that they’re not typically taking part in those behaviors, he says.

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

A. No, but scientists are working on both. Testing of several Ebola vaccines is underway in various locations.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola. The only treatments available are supportive kinds, such as IV fluids and medications to level out blood pressure, a breathing machine, and transfusions, Adalja says.

ZMapp was given to Brantly and Writebol, among others. But health officials don't know if it aided in their recovery. A trial of ZMapp in 18 Ebola-infected rhesus monkeys prompted recovery in all 18, researchers reported.

Sacra received a different treatment, called TKM-Ebola. He also received a blood transfusion from Brantly, a friend. Health officials don't know if any of these treatments helped with his recovery.

Duncan and Mukpo both received an experimental drug named brincidofovir. The drug is being tested for effectiveness against cytomegalovirus and adenovirus, but test-tube experiments done at the CDC and National Institutes of Health reveal it showed effectiveness against Ebola, according to its manufacturer, Chimerix Inc.

Mukpo and Pham also received blood transfusions from Brantly.

Spencer was reportedly given a range of treatments, including an experimental drug and a blood transfusion from Writebol. The experimental drug was not identified.

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 reasons, though.

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