EVD is a severe, often fatal illness, with a fatality rate of up to 90%. Patients may have sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
Ebola virus is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected animals. It then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. Sexual transmission has also been reported.
Body fluids of an infected EVD patient like blood, vomitus, urine, faeces, sweat, semen, saliva, etc. can transmit the disease.
No. EVD is not a respiratory disease like seasonal influenza or tuberculosis, so it is not transmitted through the air.
No. EVD is not a food-borne illness, nor a water-borne illness. However, food must be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
No. Patients become contagious once they begin to show symptoms. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected person who is experiencing symptoms or indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.
If a person does not have symptoms, he or she is not infectious and thus will not spread EVD through social contact. However, a patient may spread the disease to others when they have symptoms. If you have broken skin or your mucous membranes (e.g. eyes, nose or mouth) come into contact with the blood, other body fluids or secretions of the infected person, you may get infected.
The risk of EVD transmission on airplanes is low. Unlike infections such as seasonal influenza or tuberculosis, EVD is not airborne. It can only be transmitted by direct or indirect contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease. Usually when someone is sick with EVD, they are so unwell that they cannot travel.
Some fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest. Members of the public are advised not to eat meat from wild animals (bush meat), meat of unknown origin or other related food products. Besides, food must be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
People remain infectious as long as their blood, secretions or body fluids contain the virus. According to World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention US, Ebola virus has been found in the semen of some Ebola survivors and it is possible that the virus could be spread through sex or other contact with the semen. It is not known how long Ebola virus would persist in the semen, and it appears that the time for clearance of virus from semen varies among individuals. However based on the study findings to date, it is evident that the viral load decreases over time and eventually the virus leaves the semen. According to WHO recommendations, all Ebola survivors and their sexual partners should either abstain from all types of sex or only practise safe sex including correct and consistent condom use for 12 months from onset of symptoms or until their semen has twice tested negative.
There is currently no registered vaccine for EVD in Hong Kong. To prevent the infection, you should maintain good personal and environmental hygiene at all times. Perform hand hygiene frequently, especially before and after touching the mouth, nose or eyes. Wound should be properly disinfected and covered. Avoid close contact with feverish or ill persons, and avoid contact with blood or body fluids of patients, including contaminated objects. Avoid contact with animals. Cook food thoroughly before consumption.
There is currently no specific treatment for EVD. Patients must be managed in isolation facilities to prevent the spread of the infection. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care in a hospital. Some patients will recover with appropriate supportive care.