Ebola basics & the latest information on this virus

Ebola is the cause of a viral hemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and abnormal bleeding.

In the United States, Ebola is not a water-borne or food-borne illness and is not transmitted through the air. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person, or with objects like needles that have been contaminated with the virus. People who do not show symptoms are not contagious.

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Ebola updates

“Ebola can be scary. But there’s all the difference in the world between the US and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading. The United States has a strong health care system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director, Dr Tom Frieden, MD, MPH,  on September 30, 2014. “While it is not impossible that there could be additional cases associated with this patient in the coming weeks, I have no doubt that we will contain this.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the ministries of health in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have reported 6553 probable, confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease, and 3083 deaths in the Ebola outbreak as of September 23, 2014. Among the three nations, Liberia has reported the highest number of cases, at 3458, and deaths, at 1830.

No approved vaccines, drugs or other treatments of Ebola are currently available

Health care workers put on personal protective equipment before going into the hot zoneThere are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Ebola. Although there are experimental Ebola vaccines and treatments under development, these investigational products are in the early stages of product development, have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness, and the supply is very limited.

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There are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products specifically for Ebola available for purchase on the Internet.

What is Ebola? Ebola basics

Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains. Ebola can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).

It is important to note that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the American public. Unfortunately, during outbreak situations, fraudulent products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure a disease all too often appear on the market. The FDA monitors for these fraudulent products and false claims and takes appropriate action to protect consumers.

Ebola is the cause of a viral hemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms of the virus can appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure, but is most commonly seen on days eight to 10.



In the United States, Ebola is not a water-borne or food-borne illness and is not transmitted through the air. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person, or with objects like needles that have been contaminated with the virus. People who do not show symptoms are not contagious.

Ebola is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. There are five identified Ebola virus strains, four of which are known to cause disease in humans: Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus); Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus); Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus); and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus). The fifth, Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus), has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.

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Ebola viruses are found in several African countries. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa.

How Ebola is transmitted

Because the natural reservoir host of Ebola viruses has not yet been identified, the manner in which the virus first appears in a human at the start of an outbreak is unknown. However, researchers believe that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.

A patient lies in a bed at the newly opened Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept. 22, 2014

When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with:

  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals
  • Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats.

Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients.

During outbreaks of Ebola, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to Ebola can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, including masks, gowns, and gloves and eye protection.

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Dedicated medical equipment (preferable disposable, when possible) should be used by healthcare personnel providing patient care. Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, such as needles and syringes, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be sterilized before being used again. Without adequate sterilization of the instruments, virus transmission can continue and amplify an outbreak.

Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. People who recover from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex or use condoms for 3 months.

How do you protect yourself from Ebola?

If you must travel to an area affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Wash hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of any person, particularly someone who is sick.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Do not touch the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Do not touch bats and nonhuman primates or their blood and fluids, and do not touch or eat raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The US Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on medical facilities.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (temperature of 101.5°F/ 38.6°C) and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding. Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor, and do not travel anywhere else besides a healthcare facility.


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