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CDC: Ebola Questions and Answers


WebMD Health News

Aug. 8, 2014 -- An outbreak of Ebola virus that has claimed hundreds of lives in West Africa is triggering concerns in the United States, particularly after two American aid workers stricken with Ebola were brought back for treatment.

WebMD asked the CDC for answers to some questions about the virus, its treatment, and how it spreads.

Q: What is the risk to the general public of bringing the two infected Americans back to this country?

A: The risk is very low both for the general public as well as for patients being treated in the same hospital.  The arrival of these two humanitarian workers was carefully planned and prepared for. They are in strict isolation and their care is being closely monitored. We are confident everything is being done by the hospital for their well-being and for the safety and well-being of those treating them.

Q: What do you tell people who are afraid of Ebola and want to do everything they can to stay safe?

A: The greatest risk to Americans at this point is in traveling to one of the affected countries: Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone. [Note: Nigeria has since been added to the list of affected countries.] CDC is advising that until further notice, people should not travel to these countries unless it is absolutely necessary. Here in the United States, there is no current risk for Ebola virus in either the community or in health care facilities.

Q: How do doctors treat someone with Ebola, given there’s no vaccine or cure?

A: Because there is no approved treatment or vaccine for Ebola virus, doctors treat suspected patients with supportive care, including balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating them for any complicating infections. Media reports also suggest a new experimental therapy was given the two American health care workers with Ebola. The treatment was arranged not by CDC but through a private company and [aid agency] Samaritan’s Purse. For more information on experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola, see this link.

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.

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