Ebola Virus Frequently Asked Questions

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Published on December 08, 2014

Ebola Virus

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a virus that causes a serious and potentially life-threatening hemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms usually begin with fever, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite and can progress to include internal and external bleeding.

How is Ebola passed from person to person?

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids (such as blood, saliva, vomit, diarrhea, or sweat) of a person who is infected with Ebola virus disease (EVD).

Can Ebola be transmitted through the air?

No. Ebola is not a disease like the flu that can be transmitted through the air.

How long does it take to become ill once you are infected?

Once exposed to the virus, it can take between 2 and 21 days to become ill, though most people become ill within 8 to 10 days.

Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?

No. Ebola is not transmitted through eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

Where does Ebola come from?

Ebola was first identified in Africa in 1976 and there have been sporadic outbreaks in African countries since then. Its origins are still unknown but the virus is thought to circulate in wildlife populations like bats and monkeys. Fruit bats are considered the most likely source of the virus based on available evidence. The first human in an outbreak becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.

Can someone get Ebola from a person who is infected but not showing any symptoms?

No. Individuals who do not have symptoms of Ebola virus disease are not contagious. For the virus to be transmitted, a person has to have direct contact with body fluids from a person infected with Ebola who is experiencing symptoms.

What countries are presently experiencing Ebola cases?

This outbreak of the Zaire Ebola virus strain of Ebola was identified first in March 2014 in Guinea. It has since spread to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali. 

What is being done to prevent Ebola coming to the United States?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring people traveling into the United States at airports across the country. Highly skilled CDC staff is on duty to respond to sick travelers who arrive at U.S. major airports, seaports and land border crossings. If an ill passenger is identified, CDC takes measures to prevent further spread, such as evaluating and isolating the patient and monitoring those who have had contact with the ill passenger.

Is there a vaccine to prevent EVD?

There are currently no FDA approved vaccines for Ebola. NationaI Institute of Health’s (NIH) Allergy and Infectious Diseases is working on developing an Ebola vaccine. NIH recently announced they are expediting their work and are launching phase 1 clinical trials for humans of an Ebola vaccine.

Is there a treatment for EVD?

The treatment for Ebola consists of supportive care, such as managing a patient’s electrolytes, maintaining fluid levels and hydration, and treating any secondary infections. There is no known cure.

Are Concord Hospital and the State of New Hampshire prepared for an outbreak such as Ebola?

While an Ebola outbreak in the United States was unlikely, Concord Hospital and NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have been preparing to respond to a public health emergency such as Ebola or any other potential health threat for many years. We have systems in place to be able to respond quickly and effectively alert and coordinate with our key response partners. All systems, processes and protocols have been drilled and tested as a means of being prepared for such an outbreak. 

DHHS and Concord Hospital Infection Prevention and Control experts have been diligently following the developments of this outbreak around the world, in the U.S. and here in New Hampshire. They have been and continue to be in close communication with leading health experts at CDC who are providing the latest information about this outbreak. DHHS has also been working with clinicians and healthcare centers here in New Hampshire, including Concord Hospital, to ensure they have the latest information about this outbreak, and how to safely manage and test any future suspect patient we may see.

How is Concord Hospital screening for patients potentially infected with Ebola?

Patients seeking care at Concord Hospital’s Emergency Department, Walk-In Urgent Care Center, Family Health Center and Concord Hospital Medical Group practices are being asked the following question at registration:

  • Have you traveled or been in close contact with someone sick who traveled to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone or Mali within the past 30 days?

If a patient answers YES, an RN or provider will immediately conduct an interview/evaluation of the patient to determine if the patient has a fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, or bleeding. Any patient experiencing these symptoms will be moved to a private room for further assessment by phone.

Can Concord Hospital safely handle samples from patients for testing?

Yes. Concord Hospital handles samples for diagnostic testing all the time on patients with a wide range of illnesses. The Hospital has protocols in place but CDC has also issued guidance specifically around Ebola. DHHS’s Division of Public Health Services has also been working with laboratory staff to help develop protocols around how to handle specimens from patients suspected of having Ebola.

Where can I learn more about Ebola?

For more information about Ebola, visit New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Service Web siteCenters for Disease Control and Prevention Web site or the World Health Organization (WHO) Web site.

Source: NH Department of Health and Human Services.