Understanding the Ebola Virus

Workers help Ebola patients in West Africa -

Workers prepare to help Ebola patients in West Africa – Photo Courtesy of European Commision DG ECHO

October 7, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

Almost every day, the Ebola virus is discussed on the radio, TV, internet and in publications.  What is Ebola exactly? With the first confirmed travelling Ebola case being reported in the U.S., what is really known about how this disease is contracted, spread, the symptoms and treatments? Listening to and reading all the news can cause people to panic, so the following is information to try to dispel the myths, and give good basic facts about Ebola.

2014 West Africa Ebola Epidemic

The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak is the largest outbreak of Ebola in history. However, it has only affected cities in countries in West Africa, including: Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The first case of travelling Ebola was reported in the U.S., in Dallas, Texas. It was reported on September 30, 2014, but it is a travel related case. The person had traveled to Dallas, TX, from West Africa. The person did not display symptoms when he flew from West Africa to the U.S. This is a very important point, because Ebola cannot be spread unless the ill person is experiencing symptoms. The exposed individual only displayed symptoms several days after arriving in Dallas, so those who traveled with him on the flight to Dallas were not exposed. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance in Dallas, and is being treated while in isolation.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a rare, deadly disease caused by an infection from one of the Ebola virus-strains. There are 5 known Ebola virus strains, four of which can cause the disease in humans. Ebola was first discovered in Africa in 1976 near the Ebola River. The reservoir-host of Ebola is unknown, but is believed to be animal-borne, most likely in bats.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever (greater than 38.6 C or 101.5 F)
  • Severe Headache
  • Muscle Pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach Pain
  • Unexplained Hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

Symptoms can appear anywhere from 2-21 days after exposure. However the average is 8-10 days.

How is Ebola Transmitted?

Ebola is spread through direct contact with a person sick with Ebola.  Blood or bodily fluids, such as urine, feces, vomit, or semen, of the sick person must make direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes in order to contract Ebola.  Other ways include:

  • Objects contaminated with the virus (needles, for example)
  • Infected animals

Ebola is NOT spread through the air, water or by food (except perhaps through “bushmeat” – hunted, contaminated wild animals killed for food in Africa)

Risk of Exposure

All cases of human illness and death from Ebola have only occurred in West Africa. The ill person that flew to the U.S. contracted Ebola in West Africa. There has never been a case of Ebola originating in the U.S.


If you are planning to travel to West Africa, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid contact with blood or bodily fluids.
  • Practice careful hygiene.
  • Avoid touching a person that has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid going to hospitals that are treating patients with Ebola.
  • When you return home, monitor yourself for symptoms of Ebola for 21 days and if you experience symptoms seek medical help immediately.

There is no vaccine for Ebola. Recovery depends mostly upon the immune system of the infected person. Once a person survives from Ebola, they build up antibodies against the virus that can last for 10 years or longer.

It’s important to have an accurate understanding of Ebola in order to best defend yourself and your loved ones against the virus. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a tragedy.   Angel MedFlight continues to keep individuals who are ill with Ebola, families who have been affected and the medical professionals who work selflessly to provide care, in our thoughts.

For additional information on the Ebola outbreak, please visit:


This entry was posted in Health.

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