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CDC: Ebola Questions and Answers

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Q: We’ve been told that the disease is not easily spread. Yet two American health care workers, who we presume would have been taking all the regular precautions, came down with the disease, as have other health care workers in Africa. Can you speak to possible transmission in these cases?

A: First, from everything we have seen to date, Ebola only spreads from sick people -- not from people who’ve been exposed to the disease but haven’t yet become sick. Being sick can typically include having a fever, headache, body aches and difficulty moving, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

You get Ebola virus when you touch the vomit, blood, spit, sweat, urine, or stool of someone who is sick with the virus.

We may never know exactly how these two patients were exposed to the Ebola virus. Their infections and those of other health care workers is a sobering reminder that healthcare-acquired transmission is often a significant factor in Ebola outbreaks. Isolation and strict infection control procedures in health care settings are critical to prevent spread of the disease. This is true of any infectious disease.

Q: How is the Ebola virus killed?

A: Ebola is a fragile virus and is readily killed by soap and water, bleach, or other products such as hospital-grade quaternary ammonium or phenolic products. That’s why proper cleaning of contaminated surfaces is so important. Health care workers who clean contaminated surfaces should wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, eye protection and a face mask.

Q: What does the U.S. health care system offer in terms of better care?

A: Survival of Ebola virus infection depends largely on early and aggressive supportive care…  

In addition, for the protection of those around them, each patient should be isolated in their own room, including a private bathroom, with the door kept closed. Medical equipment should be used just for that patient, health care workers should wear protective clothing, and a log should be maintained of all who enter the patient’s room. Visitors should be avoided, or limited. Many of these conditions are not always possible to maintain in the African health care settings.

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