Ebola: What You Should Know

October 15, 2014

Ebola viral illness is a severe condition currently affecting countries in West Africa.  Cases in the United States are limited, but New Hanover Regional Medical Center,  NHRMC EMS and NHRMC Physician Group clinicians and support teams are prepared to respond appropriately should a patient with Ebola-like symptoms come to us for care.

Symptoms of Ebola

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signs and symptoms of Ebola include:

  • Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 100.4°F) 
  • Severe headache 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising

Please note that flu season is also beginning and many flu symptoms are the same as those for Ebola. 

Travel History

It is particularly important that anyone who has been to one of the countries with the Ebola outbreaks (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, or Nigeria) and/or has one of the symptoms listed above, get to the nearest emergency room and please immiediately notify staff of your travel history and symptoms.  Staff will then be able to take precautions, provide isolation and protect others from possible exposure.  Calling ahead of arrival will further prepare the hospital to assist you or your loved one.

How Ebola Spreads

Ebola is a viral disease that can spread quickly from person to person. It has a high mortality rate, BUT can be prevented.
According to the CDC:

  • A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear
  • Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days
  • When an infection does occur in humans, there are several ways the virus can be spread to others. These include: 
    • direct contact with the blood or body fluids (including but not limited to feces, saliva,  urine, vomit and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola 
    • contact with objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of an infected person or with infected animals 
    • The virus in the blood and body fluids can enter another person’s body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth. The viruses that cause Ebola are often spread among families and friends, because they come in close contact with blood or body fluids when caring for ill persons. 
    • The virus is not spread through the air and cannot be spread simply by being in close proximity to an infected person.
  • Recovery from Ebola depends on the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

Prevention

The following steps can be taken to help prevent the spread of any virus.

  • Frequent hand washing with warm water and soap
  • Frequent use of alcohol hand gel
  • Controlling/containing secretions (i.e. throwing away used tissues)
  • Avoiding contact with any person who is sick and staying home if you are sick

Additionally, most household cleaners and bleach can be used to kill the Ebola virus on surfaces

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

World Health Organization *(WHO)