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

By Edward K. Chapnick

Part of Ebola Myths & Facts For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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.