Ebola Myths & Facts For Dummies Cheat Sheet - dummies
Cheat Sheet

Ebola Myths & Facts For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Ebola Myths and Facts For Dummies

By Edward K. Chapnick

Whenever something big hits the news, you can be sure that both facts and misinformation will be floating around. The Ebola outbreak of 2014 is no different, and it has everyone’s tongues wagging. The problem is that not all of the information that you hear is true, which just adds to the feelings of panic and concern you might already feel. Someone once said that people fear what they don’t know, and that knowledge is power. This is a quick and handy guide to some of the most important facts and information about Ebola.

Ebola Symptoms and What to Do If Someone Has Them

The symptoms of Ebola are common for many conditions, such as influenza, which can lead to people worrying unnecessarily. Ebola symptoms include these often-experienced discomforts:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Stomach pain

  • Joint and muscle pain

  • Lack of appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Unexplained bruising or bleeding

If someone you’re with has these symptoms, do the following:

  1. Don’t panic.

    Unless she has been to an affected area or has been in contact with a known Ebola patient (known as exposure history), then she probably doesn’t have Ebola.

  2. If she has been exposed or you aren’t sure, don’t touch her.

    Isolate her in a room with the door closed. Then call the health department, who can assist and instruct you.

  3. If you’re traveling on a plane or train or something similar, you can alert an employee.

    The airlines and other modes of transportation have protocols that they’ll follow to address possible health-related emergencies.

How Ebola Is Transmitted and How to Avoid Getting the Ebola Virus

Ebola is very difficult to catch, especially outside of affected areas. The Ebola virus is not airborne, and someone can only infect you if he has symptoms. Your mucus membranes (eyes, ears, nose, mouth) or your non-intact skin must come in direct contact with any of the following:

  • Infected body fluids: These fluids include blood, sweat, saliva, semen, breast milk, urine, feces, and vomit.

  • Objects that have infected body fluids on them: These can include needles and syringes, or even a surface (if the droplet of fluid hasn’t yet evaporated).

  • Infected animals: Fruit bats are one of the prime suspected hosts of Ebola, and apes have been suspected carriers as well. People in West Africa can contract Ebola by butchering and preparing these animals, which they hunt for meat.

Non-intact skin can’t be visually determined. Yes, you can see cuts and openings, but your skin can also have microscopic tears that you can’t see. That’s why medical workers in the affected areas wear such elaborate protective gear.

To avoid contracting Ebola:

  • Stay away from affected areas and confirmed Ebola patients.

  • When in affected areas or near confirmed Ebola patients, wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), as designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water is a simple and powerful way to combat viruses in general.

The Difference between Isolation, Quarantine, and Monitoring for Ebola

When potential or known Ebola patients are identified, they can be placed under different levels of care and observation. The distinctions among isolation, quarantine, and monitoring can be a little confusing to remember, so here’s a rundown:

  • Isolation: This is the most serious of actions. Isolation’s used when someone is displaying Ebola-like symptoms and has an exposure history of having been in the affected areas or around a confirmed Ebola patient. The person is taken to a special unit within a special facility to receive care for as long as needed. Non-essential visitors aren’t allowed.

  • Quarantine: This is for people who have the exposure history, but aren’t displaying symptoms. They’re separated physically from others and aren’t allowed to leave their location for 21 days, which is the incubation period of Ebola. They may be tested throughout this time for fever and other signs of infection. If they display no symptoms after the incubation period, they’re cleared.

  • Monitoring: This is another option for folks who have the exposure history, but aren’t displaying symptoms. Monitoring for Ebola is more relaxed than a quarantine in that the people are allowed to carry on in their everyday lives like they normally would, but they may be subject to periodic testing over the course of the 21-day incubation period. And, they’re required to report any symptoms immediately.

Monitoring, rather than quarantining, is recommended.