Facts About the Ebola Virus

On December 29, 2014, the WHO was notified by the National IHR Focal Point for the United Kingdom of a laboratory-confirmed case of Ebola. This is the first Ebola case to be detected on United Kingdom soil. The case is a female healthcare worker who has returned from volunteering at an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. There were a small number of cases reported in Nigeria and a single case reported in Senegal; however, these cases are considered to be contained, with no further spread in these countries.

Two imported cases, including one death, and two locally acquired cases in healthcare workers have been reported in the United States. CDC and partners are taking precautions to prevent the further spread of Ebola within the United States. CDC is working with other U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other domestic and international partners and has activated its Emergency Operations Center to help coordinate technical assistance and control activities with partners. CDC has also deployed teams of public health experts to West Africa and will continue to send experts to the affected countries.

For updates and additional information on Ebola, its symptoms, and prevention, visit the Center for Disease Control's Ebola resource page.

Ebola FAQ's

What is Ebola?

Ebola virus is the cause of a viral hemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms include: fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to ebolavirus though 8-10 days is most common.

How is Ebola transmitted?

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected symptomatic person or though exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

Can Ebola be transmitted through the air?

No. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air.

Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?

No. Ebola is not a food-borne illness.  It is not a water-borne illness.

Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn’t have any symptoms?

No. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms.

Are there any cases of individuals contracting Ebola in the U.S.?

Yes.  On 9/30/2014, CDC confirmed, the first travel-associated case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States.

What is being done to prevent ill passengers in West Africa from getting on a plane?

CDC is assisting with active screening and education efforts on the ground in West Africa to prevent sick travelers from getting on planes. In addition, airports in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are screening all outbound passengers for Ebola symptoms, including fever, and passengers are required to respond to a healthcare questionnaire.  CDC is also surging support in the region by deploying 50 additional workers to help build capacity on the ground.

What is CDC doing in the U.S.?

On the remote possibility that an ill passenger enters the U.S., CDC has protocols in place to protect against further spread of disease. These include notification to CDC of ill passengers on a plane before arrival, investigation of ill travelers, and, if necessary, isolation. CDC has also provided guidance to airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft. CDC has issued a Health Alert Notice reminding U.S. healthcare workers of the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus, how to test and isolate suspected patients and how they can protect themselves from infection.

What about ill Americans with Ebola who are being brought to the U.S. for treatment? How is CDC protecting the American public?

CDC has very well-established protocols in place to ensure the safe transport and care of patients with infectious diseases back to the United States. These procedures cover the entire process -- from patients leaving their bedside in a foreign country to their transport to an airport and boarding a non-commercial airplane equipped with a special transport isolation unit, to their arrival at a medical facility in the United States that is appropriately equipped and staffed to handle such cases. CDC’s role is to ensure that travel and hospitalization is done to minimize risk of spread of infection and to ensure that the American public is protected. Patients were evacuated in similar ways during SARS. 

What does the CDC’s Travel Alert Level 3 mean to U.S. travelers?

On July 31, the CDC elevated their warning to U.S. citizens encouraging them to defer unnecessary travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone over concerns that travelers may not have access to health care facilities and personnel should they need them in country.

For more information:

Letter from Dr. Moore

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students: 

As the Ebola outbreak escalates in West Africa, Georgia Tech continues to vigilantly monitor the situation. While the chance of a significant Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is extremely small, Georgia Tech is taking steps to help ensure the well-being of our community, including close coordination with the Georgia Department of Public Health and other appropriate agencies. 

Last week, Georgia Tech participated in a briefing for colleges and universities conducted by the Georgia Department of Public Health. We learned that as a precautionary measure, travelers to countries experiencing an Ebola outbreak will be actively monitored post-arrival for 21 days by public health authorities. As you may have heard, on Oct. 27 theGovernor’s Office announced that anyone who has had direct contact with an Ebola patient will be “subject to quarantine at a designated facility.” Health care workers using proper protective gear who have treated Ebola patients will be “visually monitored” at home for 21 days, either by video or home visits.

Georgia Tech began implementing Ebola virus recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for colleges and universities last month. This advice includes avoiding non-essential travel, including education-related travel, to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Travelers are encouraged to visit the CDC Travel Health Notices Web page for up-to-date information specific to each country.

While the likelihood of Tech employees and students encountering an Ebola infection is extremely low, we are taking extra safety measures so that anyone who is suspected of having an Ebola infection is quickly evaluated and transferred for definitive care. Key health care professionals are appropriately trained on how to effectively handle a suspected case of Ebola in order to mitigate the risk of further infection. 

Anyone who thinks they may have an Ebola infection should call Stamps Health Services for advice first. It may be advisable for a patient to go directly to a hospital without stopping at Stamps. In addition, information on Ebola, including information on protocols for faculty, staff, and students who have recently traveled internationally, is posted on the Stamps Health Services website

As a reminder, the Ebola virus can only be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected symptomatic person. Ebola is not spread through the air, water, or food. It is interesting to note that the common flu presents a greater health risk in our country, and in that regard, we have flu shots available at Stamps Health Services.

We also encourage you to take a common sense approach to staying healthy, especially as we enter the flu season. This includes avoiding contact with individuals who are sick, staying home and away from others if you are sick, and most importantly, contacting a health care professional immediately if you suspect a serious illness. 

The safety of our faculty, staff, and students is paramount, and we will continue to closely monitor this evolving situation and provide updates as needed. Georgia Tech is also prepared to leverage the state-of-the-art resources available to us to care for our community. 

Sincerely, 

Gregory R. Moore, MD, MPH
Senior Director
Stamps Health Services
Georgia Institute of Technology

(Note: Included in the Daily Digest 10-29-14)