Ebola virus disease, or Ebola, is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. The severe acute viral illness is often characterized by high fever, muscle pain, unexplained bleeding and severe headache. Ebola is a rare and serious disease caused by infection with one of the virus strains.
The current outbreak is the first in West Africa and the largest Ebola outbreak in history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Transmission occurs by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected people or animals. Ebola is not spread through casual contact, air, water and food. Becoming infected requires direct, physical contact with the bodily fluids (vomit, feces, urine, blood, semen, etc.) of people who have been infected with or died from the Ebola virus disease previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. The risk of transmission is low.
Medical experts say advanced healthcare systems prevent the likely of a major outbreak in the United States unlike in West Africa where thousands have died from the virus. "Ebola is not spread through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low. We know how to stop Ebola’s further spread: thorough case finding, isolation of ill people, contacting people exposed to the ill person and further isolation of contacts if they develop symptoms," according to the CDC.
Common Symptoms of Ebola
A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear. Unexplained fever (greater than 38.6℃ or 101.5℉) with or without:
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Muscle pain
- Severe headaches
- Unexplained bleeding inside and outside the body
Symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, sore throat and weakness. Other symptoms that develop include vomiting, diarrhea, rash, internal and external bleeding.
The incubation period - time between infection and display of symptoms - is two to 21 days. Symptoms can appear two to 21 days after exposure.
Who's at Risk?
Healthcare providers caring for and in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in direct contact with the blood or body fluids of sick patients, according to the CDC.