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With the recent Ebola diagnosis of a patient in the United States this week, there’s no doubt misconceptions about the deadly disease will spread fast, as will fear of contracting the virus.

And while the thought of contracting Ebola is terrifying, the chances of the virus spiraling out of control — as it has in Western Africa where it’s killed more than 3,300 — are low.

Don’t believe it?

According to two virologists interviewed by NPR, you’re more likely to catch the common cold, influenza, or even SARS. Ebola, in comparison, is not airborne. In fact, to be infected you must come in direct contact with infected bodily fluids like blood, vomit, and feces.

But despite how public information regarding transmission has been since the beginning of the Ebola crisis, it’s doing little to ease Americans’ minds.

From NPR:

“That hasn’t stopped two-thirds of Americans from thinking that the virus spreads “easily,” a poll from Harvard School of Public Health found in August. Almost 40 percent of the 1,025 people surveyed said they worry about an Ebola epidemic in the U.S. More than a quarter were concerned about catching the virus themselves.

It’s most certainly smart to be vigilant about curbing the spread of the disease by limiting contact with those infected, but here are a few facts you should know about Ebola before you run to WebMD to self-diagnose.

  • Ebola is not airborne. According to Alan Schmaljohn at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Jean-Paul Gonzalez at Metabiota, Ebola is transmitted through large droplets which cannot travel very far or hang in the air for very long.
  • It’s unlikely you’ll contract Ebola from a cough or sneeze, unless that cough is very close to your face and full of blood.
  • Most people contract the virus by coming in contact with the skin or bodily fluids of an infected person or animal.
  • Those who care for the sick or bury the dead are more likely to contract Ebola, as Ebola is at its highest level in a dead body. Under the right conditions, the virus can survive in a dead body for months.
  • The virus is most transmittable in blood and diarrhea. In fact, one milliliter of blood typically carries a million infectious particles. [Schmaljohn]
  • Ebola can be carried through other bodily fluids like breast milk, saliva, and semen, but these fluids don’t carry nearly as much virus as blood or feces.
  • Just to be clear, you cannot get Ebola from food, water, or air. Unless of course, you are sharing food and in contact with an infected person.
  • A person can get Ebola from syringes and needles infected with the virus.
  • A person infected with the disease who does not yet exhibit symptoms cannot spread the disease.
  • Symptoms, including headache, fever, body aches, weakness, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, can show up two to 21 days after infection.
  • The Ebola mortality rate is between 50 and 90 percent. There is no cure. Those who recover from the virus, however, can no longer infect others.
  • And here’s a fact: the Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. People who recover, according to the CDC, should abstain from sex or ALWAYS use condoms.

And now you know. For more information on the Ebola crisis in Western Africa and information on the recent case in the U.S., click here.

For five things you should know about the current outbreak, click here.


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