When I get Ebola, what is the first thing I should do?

When you find out that you have Ebola, it is important to seek professional medical help immediately.

When I get Ebola, what is the first thing I should do?
You should contact a health professional immediately if you suspect you have Ebola, and follow all their instructions.

When you find out that you have Ebola, it is important to seek professional medical help immediately. There is no specific cure for Ebola, but early treatment can improve your chances of survival.

This article is not medical advice. You should contact a health professional immediately if you suspect you have Ebola, and follow all their instructions. Ebola is a serious disease that can be spread to others and often proves fatal.

What is Ebola?

Ebola virus disease (EVD), also known as Ebola, is a serious and deadly virus that affects humans and primates. The Ebola virus causes EVD. The virus is spread through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person and can lead to death in 25-90% of cases. Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding. Death typically occurs 6-16 days after symptoms appear.

What to do if you become ill

Get medical advice as soon as possible if you become ill while traveling abroad, especially if you are traveling in a country in Africa, where Ebola is regularly found. You should also contact a doctor if you become ill after returning to your home country. The NHS adds that:

It's extremely unlikely that you have Ebola, but it could be another serious condition such as cholera or malaria, so get help in case you need tests or treatment.

When you do talk to a doctor, be sure to share your travel history with them, as this could help them determine if further tests are required. They may decide to collect a blood or urine sample to check for infections and rule out other possible causes.

How Ebola is spread

Ebola is spread in a number of different ways:

Infected body fluids

The Ebola virus can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with the blood, organs, or other bodily fluids of an infected person. People can also become infected with the Ebola virus through contact with objects, such as needles or soiled clothing, that have been contaminated with infectious liquids and fluids.

Handling bodies for burial

Burial practices that involve direct contact with the body of an infected person may also contribute to transmission. This is because when the body is being prepared for burial, fluids can be released from the mouth, nose, or eyes which contain high concentrations of the Ebola virus. Furthermore, the body is often handled without protective clothing, increasing the risk of transmission.

Sexual transmission

The Ebola virus is a serious threat to anyone it comes in contact with. Even after acute illness, the virus can persist in some areas of the body, including the testes, interior of the eyes, placenta, and central nervous system. Sexual contact with a convalescent case or survivor has been documented as a method of transmission. The virus can be present in semen for many months after recovery.

Healthcare settings and lab accidents

When infection control measures are insufficient or barrier nursing precautions aren't implemented, healthcare workers are at risk of catching EVD from patients. There have been reports of laboratory-acquired EVD infections in England (in 1976) and Russia (in 1996 and 2004).

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Ebola treatments

There's currently no licensed treatment for Ebola virus disease, although vaccines and drug therapies are being developed and tested.

Ebola has two primary strains of interest - the Sudan strain and the Zaire strain. Ervebo is the first approved Ebola vaccine and works against the Zaire strain. Per the US CDC:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV (called Ervebo®) on December 19, 2019. This is the first FDA-approved vaccine for Ebola. This vaccine is given as a single dose vaccine and has been found to be safe and protective against Zaire ebolavirus, which has caused the largest and most deadly Ebola outbreaks to date. On February 26, 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended pre-exposure prophylaxis vaccination with rVSV-ZEBOV for adults ≥ 18 years of age in the U.S. population who are at potential occupational risk of exposure to Zaire ebolavirus.

However, the current Ebola outbreak is an outbreak of the Sudan strain, for which there is no known vaccine at present. Work is ongoing to develop a vaccine that will protect against this strain, but is not yet complete.

Preventing Ebola

Any area where an outbreak happens should be immediately quarantined, and people who have the infection should be treated in isolation in intensive care.

As Uganda is currently the hardest-hit country, public health officials have initiated a contact tracing program that has traced more than 1,200 contacts of infected people since the outbreak began.

Uganda is also closing schools nationwide two weeks early and has locked down two districts, Mubende and Kassanda. These districts contain 810,000 residents and have had their first three-week lockdown extended an additional three weeks.

Neighboring countries are conducting surveillance to attempt to keep Ebola from entering their borders. South Sudan, for example, is screening passengers at river crossings and at their airports. These efforts identified 17 suspected cases, of which 5 were validated for further testing (all tested negative).

Kenya is also performing temperature checks at their borders, as is Rwanda. Nigeria has warned all travelers to avoid non-essential travel to Uganda. In short, most neighboring countries are attempting to keep Ebola out by enforcing checks at their borders, while simultaneously training their health workers in case these prevention efforts fall short.

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How can individuals help prevent the spread of Ebola?

There are a few ways to protect yourself from Ebola virus disease. According to the US CDC, you should first avoid contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick. They also recommend you avoid contact with semen from a man who has recovered from EVD until it is confirmed that the virus is gone.

Additionally, do not touch items that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. Finally, stay away from funeral or burial practices involving touching the bodies of those who died from EVD or suspect EVD.

If you live in or travel to an area where there is an Ebola outbreak, be sure to follow these same prevention methods, even if you aren't aware that you might have been exposed to someone with EVD.

You should also keep an eye out on case counts if you plan to visit a country where Ebola is present. Ebola-Cases.com tracks global data on the 2022 Ebola virus disease outbreak. Because the site is updated daily, this will be one of the first places you will be able to go to view information about any Ebola outbreak. We will also aggregate and share any information about the number of Ebola cases and deaths on our Twitter account, so be sure to follow it for up-to-date information.