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Ebola 101

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola Virus Disease, or Ebola, is a rare and deadly disease in humans and non-human primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) caused by infection with one of the five Ebola virus strains. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been since identified in multiple countries of Africa. Although the natural reservoir host of Ebola is unknown, based on evidence and the nature of similar viruses, the virus is most likely animal-borne from bats.

In the US, the risk of catching Ebola is very low since it is not spread via causal contact. If you are planning on travelling to an area affected by the outbreak, protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Wash hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids (i.e. urine, saliva, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of any person, particularly someone who is sick.
  • Do not handle items (i.e. needles and syringes) 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 in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. State Department, Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on medical facilities.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (temperature of 100.4°F/ 38.0°C or higher) and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.

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