Should You Be Concerned About Ebola? - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

Should You Be Concerned About Ebola?

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Volunteers in Guinea help to spread safety information about the Ebola virus. (PHOTO: ABC News) Volunteers in Guinea help to spread safety information about the Ebola virus. (PHOTO: ABC News)
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are struggling to control an outbreak of Ebola.

Two Americans, including a doctor, are infected with the Ebola virus and Liberia's lead Ebola doctor recently died from the virus.

That news came amid a heavy toll -- 1,323 infected in the current outbreak as of July 31, according to the World Health Organization. Of those infected, over 700 have died, meaning this outbreak has had a fatality rate of approximately 60 percent.

What is Ebola?

The Ebola virus is described as a group of viruses that cause a deadly kind of hemorrhagic fever. The term "hemorrhagic fever" means it causes bleeding inside and outside the body. The virus has a long incubation period of approximately eight to 21 days. Early symptoms include fever, muscle weakness, sore throat and headaches.

As the disease progresses, the virus can impair kidney and liver function and lead to external and internal bleeding. It’s one of the most deadly viruses on Earth with a fatality rate that can reach between approximately 50 to 90 percent. There is no cure.

How is the disease passed?

The virus is transmitted through contact with blood or secretions from an infected person, either directly or through contaminated surfaces, needles or medical equipment. A patient is not contagious until he or she starts showing signs of the disease.

Thankfully, the virus is not airborne, which means a person cannot get the disease simply by breathing the same air as an infected patient.

A person sitting next to an infected person, even if they are contagious, is not extremely likely to be infected.

Health workers and caregivers of the sick are particularly at risk for the disease because they work in close contact with infected patients during the final stages of the disease when the virus can cause internal and external bleeding.

Things to know about Ebola and how it is spread:

1. Some people have survived Ebola. While the fatality rate for Ebola can be as high as 90 percent, health officials in the three countries say people have recovered from the virus and the current death rate is about 60 percent. Those who fared best sought immediate medical attention and got supportive care to prevent dehydration even though there is no specific treatment for Ebola itself.

2. Ebola can look like other diseases. The early symptoms of an Ebola infection include fever, headache, muscle aches and sore throat. It can be difficult to distinguish between Ebola and malaria, typhoid fever or cholera. An Ebola scare at Johns Hopkins Hospital was debunked Tuesday when doctors confirmed that the patient actually had malaria.

3. Ebola is only spread through close contact. The Ebola virus is not airborne, so people would have to come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. These include blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen - making transmission through casual contact in a public setting unlikely.

4. Government officials have stepped up efforts to isolate patients, educate the public, check travelers and tighten borders to prevent the disease's spread.

8News reporter Kristin Smith is investigating what organizations are doing in our own community and what precautions should be made. She'll have a full report, coming up at 8News at 5, 5:30 and 6.

Stay with 8News for updates on this developing story.

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