Ebola: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the earliest symptoms of an Ebola infection?
Symptoms of an Ebola infection may initially include sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. These are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, bruising and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

How can I tell the difference between Ebola and the flu?
Some symptoms of the flu (fever, headache and muscle pain) are very similar to those of the Ebola virus. However, if you have not traveled to the regions of Western Africa where the outbreak is occurring, and have not had close, intimate contact with an Ebola patient, then you do not need to worry about contracting Ebola.

How is Ebola spread?
Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids. Objects like needles that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person infected with Ebola also pose a risk. Ebola is not spread through the air, water or food.

What is the significance of an Ebola case in which the virus was contracted in Texas?
It is significant only to those in close physical contact with an infected person.

Is it safe to travel to West Africa?
The risk of contracting the Ebola virus while traveling to West Africa is low. Transmission of the virus requires direct contact with the body fluids of an infected individual, so travelers should make every effort to avoid such contact. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has posted Warning – Level 3 Travel Notices recommending that people avoid non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone at this time. The CDC advises that education-related travel to these countries be postponed until further notice.

Is a person traveling on a plane with an Ebola-infected person at risk?
A person who does not exhibit Ebola symptoms is not contagious. If an infected person is evaluated during an exit screening before departing an area affected by the Ebola outbreak and does not exhibit a fever, headache, vomiting, stomach pain or unexplained bruising or bleeding, they are not considered contagious.

What if I become ill after a trip to an affected area or contact with an infected person?
The incubation period for an Ebola infection is between two and 21 days. If you begin experiencing the classic Ebola symptoms, such as fever or muscle pain, during this time, you should seek medical attention immediately. Notify your hospital or health care provider ahead of your arrival so that the facility may prepare and protect patients and health care workers who are there.

How are Ebola cases confirmed?
Ebola viral infections can only be determined through laboratory testing.

Is there a vaccine or treatment drug available for Ebola?
Currently, there is no vaccine or drug specifically for Ebola. The best treatment for a severely ill patient is intensive medical care, including monitoring the patient for dehydration.

What is the best defense against an Ebola infection?
As with most infectious diseases that are transmitted through direct contact, it is important to practice healthy hand hygiene to avoid contracting Ebola. Health care workers caring for Ebola patients should wash their hands:
· Before putting on gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
· Before and after performing any procedures on a patient
· After any potential exposure to a patient’s blood or body fluids
· After touching or potentially touching any contaminated items near the patient
· After taking off the PPE. Neglecting to wash hands after removing the PPE could negate the protective benefits of wearing the PPE.

What is the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center doing to protect patients, students and employees from a potential Ebola outbreak in West Texas?
TTUHSC is following all protocols developed and recommended by the Center for Disease Control and state regulatory agencies.

TTUHSC is monitoring hourly all changes to recommendations from these agencies to make sure our patients, students and health care staff remain safe and healthy and will continue to update faculty, staff and students.

Texas Tech Physicians infectious disease experts and all medical staff will communicate with local and state agencies and health care institutions in a coordinated effort to provide consultation, care and other resources as available and necessary.

For more information about maintaining the safety of students on college and university campuses, please refer to the CDC article “Advice for Colleges, Universities, and Students about Ebola in West Africa”.

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