The current Ebola outbreak has not spread beyond West Africa, according to public health officials who are nevertheless watching it closely, and with great concern. So far, the outbreak has killed more than 670 people since February.
According to the CDC, people who may have been in contact with the virus are generally monitored for fever for 21 days and only about 50 percent of patients show extreme symptoms that can include bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose. Others have only a fever as an early symptom.
Early treatment may lead to higher survival rates with treatment focusing on replenishing fluids, maintaining proper blood pressure, replacing lost blood, and treating related infections. Treatment is limited to supportive therapy.
According to Bloomberg news, historically, Ebola virus disease in Africa has killed as many as 90 percent of people who are infected. In this outbreak, the fatality rate is closer to 60 percent, according to Stephen Monroe, deputy director at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Concern for International Travelers
Quoting CDC experts, Bloomberg News reports that symptoms appear from two days to three weeks after infection, meaning it’s possible for an infected person who doesn’t feel ill to board a plane, but unlikely because most people currently infected are too ill to sit up or walk.
But while an infected person who sneezes or coughs directly in another person’s face could infect that person, Ebola primarily enters the body through tiny cuts or abrasions, or through mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, making it less likely to spread through air travel, said Ben Neuman, a virologist at the University of Reading.
The CDC is issuing an alert to U.S. doctors and health-care providers that will focus of the importance of asking patients about their travel history and outlining the symptoms of Ebola virus disease.
Experimental treatments have been tested and proven effective in animal models but haven not yet been used in humans.
Key Points to Know:
- Ebola is Ebola hemorrhagic fever because bleeding is the hallmark of serious disease
- Symptoms are similar to many viral illnesses, with fever, muscle pains, and nausea and vomiting. It turns deadly with development of bleeding.
- The time from exposure to onset of symptoms can be as long as 21 days.
- Unlike influenza or measles, ebola is difficult to transmit, requiring close contact or sharing of bodily fluids (including sexual relations)
- Men who survive Ebola may transmit the disease sexually (condoms recommended for 3 months after surviving ebola)
For more information about the Ebola virus including conditions, symptoms, treatments and tests, as well as answers from top U.S. doctors, visit HealthTap’s Ebola Virus page.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, Bloomberg News, and the doctors at HealthTap.