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Questions and answers about Ebola

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First published in the Star Telegram, September 30, 2014

What does a case in Dallas mean to the typical resident of the Dallas-Fort Worth area?

Physicians at the federal, state and county level said Tuesday that only relatives and one to three other people may have been exposed to the virus. They are confident that it will be completely contained. Health officials in Dallas County said they will warn the public of any further issues. {{more}}

Why wasn?t the patient contagious when he flew from Liberia to Dallas?

Health officials say Ebola is not contagious until a patient shows symptoms. The Dallas patient was checked for fever before he left Liberia and did not show symptoms until four days after the flight.

How could I catch Ebola?

Ebola is not transmitted through the air but through contact (through mucus membranes or broken skin) with the bodily fluids of a victim ? blood, saliva, semen and other secretions. Also, the bodies of those who have died of Ebola are extremely infectious.

How long is a patient contagious?

The incubation period to show symptoms is two to 21 days.

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms include sudden fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Those are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding (oozing from the gums, blood in stools).

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Because the symptoms are similar to the flu, doctors are not generally concerned unless a patient has been to West Africa or has been in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has.

What happens if I was in contact with the patient while he was contagious?

Health officials will contact you and quarantine you for 21 days to make sure you don?t have the virus.

Is it always fatal?

No. In this outbreak, the fatality rate is about 50 percent. Fatality rates have been 25 to 90 percent in other outbreaks.

What is the cure?

There is no cure. But supportive care, including hydration, greatly improves the chances of survival. Two possible vaccinations are being evaluated.

Where did Ebola originate?

Experts say that the fruit bat is a natural host and that wild animals such as monkeys also carry the virus. West Africans eat the meat of these animals, called bushmeat, and also come into contact with them while hunting.

Sources: World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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