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CDC: Ebola Questions and Answers


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.

Q: Is an Ebola outbreak likely in the U.S.? If not, why not? What precautions are being taken against the spread of the virus in the U.S.?

A: The standard, rigorous infection control procedures used in major hospitals in the United States will prevent spread of Ebola.

In the past decade, the United States has had five imported cases of hemorrhagic fevers -- one of Marburg and four of Lassa, both viruses that are similar to Ebola. Each time, the American public health system identified the cases and through thorough infection control procedures prevented any one else from becoming ill.

The best way to protect Americans is to stop the outbreak in West Africa.

We know how to control Ebola.  Previous outbreaks of Ebola virus disease have been contained by patient isolation, rigorous use of infection control measures in hospitals, intensive and thorough tracing of those who came into contact with the patients, and community education. 

CDC, the World Health Organization, and our partners are committing to deliver a surge of resources and expertise to help end this outbreak.  Far too many lives have been lost already.  We have a difficult road ahead, which will take many months, but we must redouble our efforts to bring this terrible outbreak under control.


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