Ebola Frequently Asked Questions
Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains. Ebola can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa. The origin of the virus is unknown, but fruit bats (Pteropodidae) are considered the likely host of the Ebola virus, based on available evidence.
The current Ebola virus outbreak is centered on three countries in West Africa: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. However, there is the potential for further spread to neighboring African countries.
Symptoms, which may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, include:
- Fever (including low-grade)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Seasonal influenza and Ebola virus infection can cause some similar symptoms. However, of these viruses, your symptoms are most likely caused by seasonal influenza. Influenza is very common. While the exact timing and duration of flu seasons vary, outbreaks often begin in October and can last as late as May. Most flu activity peaks between December and February. On the other hand, Ebola outbreaks in the United States are rare, and the limited incidents experience have been associated with travel to countries affected by Ebola or exposure through medical-related work.
There are tests to detect seasonal influenza and Ebola infection. Your doctor will determine if you should be tested for these illnesses based on your symptoms, clinical presentation, and recent travel or exposure history.
- Ebola is spread through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth with
- blood or body fluids, including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen, of a person who is sick with Ebola;
- objects like needles and syringes that have been contaminated with the virus;
- infected fruit bats or primates, such as apes and monkeys.
- Ebola is NOT transmitted through the air, food or water.
- There is NO evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the American Veterinary Medical Association DO NOT believe that pets are at significant risk for Ebola. There have been NO reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola.
- Individuals who are not symptomatic are NOT contagious. For the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms.
Ebola DOES NOT pose a significant risk to the U.S. public. The standard and rigorous infection control procedures used in major hospitals in the U.S. will prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States. Ebola is not spread through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low.
The CDC has well-established protocols to ensure the care of patients with infectious diseases and their safe transport back to the U.S. These procedures cover the entire process: from patients leaving their bed 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 U.S. that is appropriately equipped and staffed to handle such cases. The CDC's role is to ensure that travel and hospitalization minimizes risk of spread of infection and to ensure that the American public is protected.
Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids. The risk for person-to-person transmission is greatest during the later stages of illness when viral loads are highest and a person is exhibiting symptoms.
If a person has been in an area known to have Ebola virus disease or in contact with a person known or suspected to have Ebola and they begin to have symptoms, they should seek medical care immediately. Additionally, UNG faculty, staff, students, employees, contractors, or others who are experiencing Ebola symptoms and who have been on any of the four campuses of the University of North Georgia in the past 21 days should contact UNG Public Safety at 706-864-1500.
Any cases of persons who are suspected to have the disease should be reported without delay. Prompt medical care is essential to improving the rate of survival from the disease. It is also important to control spread of the disease, and infection control procedures need to be started immediately.
While there is no specific drug to treat Ebola, intensive supportive treatment provided in the hospital by health workers using strict infection control procedures can control the infection. Currently, there is no licensed medicine or vaccine for Ebola virus disease, but several products are under development.
- Avoid traveling to locations in West Africa affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
- While the risk of Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is very low, the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) recommend practicing routine hygiene for reducing exposure to any infectious diseases:
- Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. If a tissue is not available, sneeze or cough into your sleeve to contain the droplets, not your hands.
- Avoid contact with blood or body fluids of any person, particularly someone who is sick.
- Do not handle items that have come into contact with an infected person's blood or bodily fluids.
- Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor.
Ebola has been reported in multiple countries in West Africa. The CDC has issued a Warning, Level 3 travel notice for United States citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. An Alert, Level 2 travel notice has also been issued for travelers to Mali, where a cluster of cases has been reported, and for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a small number of Ebola cases have been reported that are not related to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. You can find more information on these travel notices at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.
Although spread to other countries is possible, the CDC is working with the governments of affected countries to control the outbreak. Ebola is a very low risk for most travelers – it is spread through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of a sick person, so travelers can protect themselves by avoiding sick people and facilities in West Africa where patients with Ebola are being treated.
UNG is asking anyone planning or considering travel to Ebola-affected countries to contact Dr. Billy Wells firstname.lastname@example.org, vice-president of executive affairs, prior to departure. Dr. Wells is UNG's designated point of contact regarding potential travel to and from Ebola-affected countries.
Any faculty, staff, students, employees, contractors, or others who regularly visit any of UNG's four campuses who have traveled to any of the countries with current Ebola outbreaks (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, or the Democratic Republic of Congo) should contact Karen Tomlinson, director of UNG Student Health Services, 706-864-1948 or email@example.com, or Dr. Billy Wells firstname.lastname@example.org, vice-president of executive affairs BEFORE coming/returning to campus. After hours, contact UNG Public Safety at 706-864-1500. Be prepared to respond to questions related to your travel, potential exposure history, and whether you are experiencing signs and symptoms of Ebola virus disease such as fever, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or unusual bruising or bleeding.
All air travelers entering the United States who have been in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Mali are being routed through five U.S. airports (New York’s JFK International, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare, and Atlanta) for enhanced entry screening. These inbound travelers receive Check and Report Ebola (CARE) Kits that contain further information about Ebola and self-monitoring instructions and tools.
Additionally, the CDC recommends that travelers entering the United States from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Mali be actively monitored by state or local health departments. Active monitoring means that public health workers are responsible for checking at least once a day to see if people have fever or other Ebola symptoms. Additional public health actions may be recommended depending on travelers’ possible exposures to Ebola while in one of the four countries.
Effective Oct. 27, 2014, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), with guidance from Georgia's Ebola Response Team, is monitoring travelers arriving at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from countries affected by Ebola. DPH's enhanced monitoring is in conjunction with measures being taken by the CDC, the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, and their partners at airports both in the United States and in affected countries in West Africa to prevent the spread of Ebola. The process begins with exit screenings conducted by quarantine station medical personnel, which include measuring temperature and checking for symptoms of Ebola and history of any exposure to known Ebola patients.
If a passenger is ill, the individual will be transported to a hospital and evaluated. If they are at risk, they will be quarantined and the health department will check in twice daily and monitor their temperature. If they are found to have Ebola, they would be transferred to one of the hospitals designated to treat Ebola patients. If an ill passenger enters the U.S., the CDC has protocols to protect against further spread of the disease.
The 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, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, are screening all outbound passengers for Ebola symptoms, including fever, and passengers are required to respond to a health care questionnaire. The CDC is also increasing support to the region by deploying 50 additional workers to help build capacity on the ground.
Every day, the CDC works closely with partners at U.S. international airports and other ports of entry to identify sick travelers with possible infectious diseases. Through enhanced entry screening at five U.S. airports, almost all travelers from the affected countries will be evaluated. Active post-arrival monitoring is taking place in six states (New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Georgia), for incoming travelers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Mali. Many other states are conducting some form of active monitoring for travelers returning from these West African countries.
Active post-arrival monitoring means that health officials maintain daily contact with these travelers for 21 days following their last date of exposure to Ebola. Post-arrival monitoring is an added safeguard that complements existing exit screening protocols, which require all outbound passengers from the affected West African countries to be screened for fever. The CDC and state and local health departments seek to support people who may have been exposed to Ebola, while also continuing to stop Ebola at its source in West Africa.
The CDC has also provided guidance to airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft. The CDC has issued a health alert notice reminding U.S. health care 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.
Gov. Nathan Deal has assembled an Ebola Response Team to assess current state health and emergency management procedures and produce necessary recommendations to minimize any potential impact of the disease in Georgia. The highest priority of the team is protection of the health of all Georgians. The team's priorities include preparedness of hospitals, emergency medical services, and first responders, as well as the monitoring of individuals returning from the affected countries.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) is in constant communication with the CDC, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, the Governor's Ebola Response Team, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers, Georgia's hospitals, the state's physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and numerous other state and federal partners, in addition to the state's 18 Public Health Districts and 159 county health departments. DPH epidemiologists are working to track Ebola globally, while monitoring incoming travelers from affected nations.
UNG has created an Ebola Response Committee to oversee preventative measures and plan various contingencies. While the risk of Ebola remains low at UNG and in north Georgia, necessary responses must be prepared, as is the case with other types of situations that impact the university community, such as weather closures and flu epidemics.
UNG continues to actively monitor the ongoing Ebola virus situation and is working closely with the University System of Georgia (USG), the Georgia Ebola Response Team, local hospitals and law enforcement agencies, other institutions, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Public Health.
Chancellor Hank Huckaby has directed each USG campus to designate a point of contact to provide information, current advisories, and guidance to faculty, staff, and students traveling to and returning from countries most at risk for Ebola. UNG's points of contact are Dr. Billy Wells, vice president for executive affairs, 706-864-1630 or email@example.com, and Karen Tomlinson, director of UNG Student Health Services, 706-864-1948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNG also has created an Ebola Information page (http://ung.edu/student-health-services/ebola-info) on the Student Health Services website, which has FAQ and links to current travel advisories and other information from the CDC.