Ebola: Myths vs. Facts and What You Need to Know
Ebola virus disease (formally known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness that can be transmitted to people from wild animals and also spreads in the human population through human to human transmission. Fruit bats in the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus. However, in Africa documented infections have occurred through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope, and porcupines. While there are many myths circulating concerning Ebola virus, most stem from facts that are misunderstood about how the virus spreads and is treated. Here are the main facts you need to know about this often deadly disease.
- You can only pass Ebola on to others if you are exhibiting symptoms. The myth that you are still contagious even if you beat Ebola is untrue. Symptoms that are indicative of contagion include fever, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a man who has had Ebola can transmit the virus through his semen for up to seven weeks following recovery. The incubation period (time from interval from infection to onset of symptoms) is 2 to 21 days, but the person is not contagious during this period either.
- Ebola virus is spread from person to person when the bodily fluids of an infected person come into contact with the mucus membranes of a non-infected person. There are several myths out there that Ebola virus is airborne, waterborne, or spread through casual contact, but the fact is that Ebola virus in a person’s fluids must come in contact with areas like your eyes, mouth, nostrils, ears, or an open wound in order to infect you.
- Ebola attacks the organs, but it does not liquefy them. While Ebola symptoms can include bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, this only happens in around 20 percent of cases. This occurs because Ebola virus weakens blood vessels, which causes internal and sometimes external bleeding. The virus can also prevent the body from clotting blood effectively.
- Ebola cannot be treated with antibiotics, because it is a virus. In fact, currently there is neither a cure nor a vaccine for the Ebola virus. However, there is an experimental serum being used called ZMapp, which contains antibodies that can help block the virus. This serum is brand-new and prior to the 2014 Ebola outbreak had only been tested on monkeys. So far, early reports on the serum’s efficacy are cautiously optimistic.
Any cases of persons who are suspected to have Ebola virus should be brought to a health facility without delay. Prompt medical care is essential in improving the rate of survival from the disease. The right care will also help to limit the spread of Ebola.