Ebola Virus Hemorrhagic Fever

 

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a severe, often deadly disease that is caused by the Ebola virus.  Symptoms of Ebola most commonly begin 8-10 days after coming into contact with the Ebola virus, but symptoms can occur anywhere between 2-21 days after exposure.
 
Symptoms of Ebola include:  fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite and abnormal bleeding. These symptoms are not specific to Ebola and are often seen with other illnesses.

How does a person get Ebola?

Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola, or a person who has recently died from Ebola.  It also may be spread on objects or surfaces contaminated with blood or body fluids of an infection person.  A person who is not experiencing symptoms, such as fever, vomiting or diarrhea, cannot transmit the virus. 
 
Ebola is NOT spread through the air, water or food.  

What are body fluids?

Ebola has been detected in blood and many body fluids. Body fluids also include saliva, mucus, vomit, feces, sweat, tears, breast milk, urine and semen.

What does “direct contact” mean?

Direct contact means that body fluids (blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine or feces) from an infected person (alive or dead) have touched someone’s eyes, nose, mouth or an open cut, wound or abrasion.

How long does Ebola live outside the body?

Ebola is killed with hospital-grade disinfectants (such as household bleach). Ebola on dried surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, can survive for several hours; however, virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature. 

Are there cases of Ebola in Illinois?

At this time, there are no cases of Ebola in Illinois.   The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is diligently monitoring for possible cases.

How concerned should people in Illinois be?

At this time, Ebola does not pose a great health risk to the people of Illinois. 

Who is at risk of getting Ebola?

Family, friends and health care workers caring for people sick with Ebola are at higher risk of getting Ebola.
 
People who touch the bodies of Ebola patients who have died also are at risk. 

When is a person suspected of having Ebola?

Early recognition is critical for infection control. Health care providers should be alert for and evaluate patients suspected of having Ebola who have:

  • a fever of greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or additional symptoms, such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or unexplained hemorrhage;
    AND
  • risk factors within the past three weeks before the onset of symptoms, such as contact with blood or other body fluids of a patient known to have or suspected to have Ebola; and residence in—or travel to—an area where Ebola transmission is active. 

 
Only patients experiencing symptoms can transmit the virus.  Ebola cannot be spread to other people before symptoms begin.

Are people screened at airports for Ebola?

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) have begun enhanced entry screening and health assessments of travelers who have been in countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak. 
 
These travelers are now arriving to the U.S. at one of five airports (JFK International, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare and Atlanta- Hartsfield-Jackson International) where entry screening is being conducted.
 
CDC has sent additional staff to each of the five airports where CBP officers are reviewing travelers’ passports. After passport review:

  • Travelers from countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak will be escorted by CBP to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
  • Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms.  Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
  • If the travelers have fever, symptoms or the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
  • Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring, be asked to complete a daily temperature log, and be asked to provide their contact information. 

Are Illinois hospitals ready to care for patients with Ebola?

Illinois hospitals following the CDC’s infection control recommendations and hospitals that are able to properly isolate a patient in a private room‎ are capable of safely managing a patient with Ebola.  IDPH and the CDC recommend hospitals isolate the patient in a private room and implement standard, contact and droplet precautions.

What is the treatment for Ebola?

The standard treatment for Ebola remains supportive therapy. This includes the following measures:

  • balancing the patients' fluids and electrolytes;
  • maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure; and
  • treating them for any complicating infections.

Some patients infected with Ebola virus do get better spontaneously or with supportive care.
 
An experimental treatment, ZMapp, is being developed. It has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness.

Are patients who recover from Ebola immune for life? Can they get it again - the same or a different strain?

Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and a patient’s immune response. Available evidence shows that people who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer.  It is not known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola.

If someone survives Ebola, can he or she still spread the virus?

Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to three months. People who recover from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex or use condoms for three months.

Can Ebola be spread through mosquitoes?

At present, there is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (e.g., humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to spread and become infected with Ebola virus.

What is the state doing to prepare for Ebola in Illinois?

Handling disease outbreaks is a core public health function and IDPH is prepared to conduct surveillance for possible cases, implement infection control measures, support medical facilities, perform contact tracing and assist with laboratory testing.
 
IDPH will continue to work with the CDC, local health departments, and hospitals and medical facilities.
 
IDPH has provided guidance on laboratory specimen submission and case management for suspected or confirmed cases. 
 
IDPH is testing established public health systems to ensure contact tracing is readily available.
 
IDPH will continue to provide updated CDC guidance through SIREN (State of Illinois Rapid Electronic Notification) to appropriate audiences (infection control professionals, infectious disease physicians, laboratories, local health departments, health care providers, health care facilities and emergency medical services systems), as well as create a Web portal with pertinent information for health care partners.
 
IDPH has completed a CDC online assessment of its emergency preparedness and response activities related to Ebola, and have participated in national Ebola-related teleconferences. 

Is it safe to travel overseas?

CDC has recommended people not travel to countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak, unless travel is essential, such as providing humanitarian aid.
 
If travel is essential, avoid direct contact with people sick with Ebola.

What should I do if I recently returned from one of the affected countries?

Call your doctor or clinic right away if you have a fever, headache, or joint and muscle aches within three weeks of returning home.

Tell your doctor where you traveled, what you did and if you had contact with anyone who was sick with Ebola.

It is important to call your doctor in advance of seeking health care so that you are directed to the appropriate facility for medical care, and to be sure that facility is prepared for your arrival.   

Should I avoid contact with a person who recently traveled to West Africa?

No, you do not need to avoid contact with someone who recently returned from one of the affected countries unless they have symptoms compatible with Ebola.
 
If a person who recently returned from West Africa has symptoms of Ebola, such as fever, the individual should contact a health care provider and tell them about their recent travel and any exposure(s) to ill individuals.  The health care provider will evaluate the person’s risk of Ebola as well as other more common infections in West Africa such as malaria and typhoid.