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The Ebola Virus: What You Need to Know

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ebola 2On Sunday, a man who had recently traveled to West Africa checked into the emergency room at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City with Ebola-like symptoms. He is currently in isolation and has been tested for Ebola, but the results have not yet been released.

Ebola outbreaks have occurred in four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.

The largest concern around this disease is that it has been — or easily could be — spread by travelers. Many individuals who have traveled to these areas often travel on to other countries. The incubation period for Ebola virus disease is 2 to 21 days, which means that many people could be carrying the disease—and coming into contact with many people in the meantime.

Here’s what you need to know about the disease, and how to keep yourself protected.

The Outbreaks in West Africa

A second case of Ebola was confirmed in Nigeria’s capitol of Lagos on Monday, making Nigeria the fourth country to see an outbreak. The first reported cases came from Guinea, and shortly thereafter, more were reported in Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that there have been 887 deaths due to the Ebola virus, and up to 1,603 cases have been diagnosed.

Nigerian-based airlines ASKY and Arik Air have suspended flights into Sierra Leone and Liberia, and have begun screening passengers flying to Guinea for the virus. Meanwhile, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced last week that all schools will be temporarily closed. Liberia’s borders have been closed since July 28.

The United States has removed 340 Peace Corps volunteers from all four countries with confirmed cases of the virus, and has approved the return of two Americans from West Africa who have been diagnosed with Ebola. The first patient, an American doctor, was transported to a facility in Atlanta on Saturday and is showing signs of improvement. The second, a missionary in Liberia, is scheduled to be transported back to the U.S. on Tuesday.

What You Need to Know About Ebola

The Ebola virus first arose in 1976 when two outbreaks occurred at the same time. One was in Nzara in the Sudan, the other in Yambuku in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The virus is typically transmitted to humans from wild animals, and then spreads from humans to humans.

According to the World Health Organization, most Ebola outbreaks have a fatality rate of 90 percent. Historically, these outbreaks have taken place in Central and West African villages situated near tropical rainforests.

Ebola symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain, sore throat, and headache. These symptoms are followed by vomiting, rash, diarrhea, and impaired liver and kidney function.

Ebola spreads through bodily fluids. So it’s not a matter of NOT traveling, but it’s simply — and essentially — a matter of HOW you travel and practice common sense. If you are traveling to West Africa, it’s important to wear protective gear, avoid contact with blood, saliva, and other bodily fluids, and take precautions with someone who is sick.

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By Jessica Hobbs and Stephanie Ervin for PeterGreenberg.com

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