As Ebola cases begin to spread and pop up in Europe and the US, so too do rumours about how you can catch the disease.
We help debunk some of the common myths about Ebola and share the facts about the disease that’s gripping much of West Africa.
Ebola is spread by direct human contact with contaminated body fluids. Blood, saliva and vomit or excrement can carry and spread the virus.
Relatives of sick patients and healthcare workers who care for them are at the highest risk of contamination. But anyone who comes into close proximity can be putting themselves at risk.
Thankfully the virus can’t breach protective gear like gloves, a mask, goggles, a body suit and rubber boots.
YOU CAN’T GET EBOLA FROM:
Someone who isn’t already sick: The virus only appears in body fluids after the person had already experienced symptoms – so a carrier can’t unknowingly spread it before they feel sick.
Mosquitos: There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit the Ebola virus, the way dengue fever of Ross River fever can. Only mammals – humans, bats, monkeys and apes etc. – have shown the ability to become infected and spread the disease.
Water: Unlike cholera and dysentery, Ebola does not contaminate water supplies. That said, when travelling it may be a good idea to stick to bottled water to avoid other nasties that can be floating around in common water supplies.
Through the air: Ebola is not an airborne disease like influenza or chicken pox. During extensive studies of Ebola virus over several decades, this mode of transmission has not been observed.
Properly cooked food: While Ebola has spread through the hunting, butchering and preparation of bush meat in Africa, it cannot be transmitted through properly cooked food. The Ebola virus is inactivated through cooking.
CLOSE YOUR EYES
IF an infected droplet does get on your skin, it can be washed away immediately with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
However, your eyes are a different matter. A spray of droplets from a sneeze directly into the eye could let the virus in. The same could be said of the mucous membranes of the mouth and inside the nose, as well as broken skin.
DO YOUR LAUNDRY
Bleeding is one of the more shocking and common symptoms of Ebola. patients can bleed from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and rectum. Diarrhoea and vomit may also be tainted with blood.
A big infection risk is cleaning up – laundry or other waste should be incinerated. Without adequate sterilisation the virus can continue to amplify.
Generally, once someone recovers from Ebola and they have been cleared of the virus that can no longer spread the virus.
But according to the World Health Organisation, Ebola can be found in semen for several weeks and some studies suggest it can be present for up to three months.
So, those who have recovered from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms.
For your own protection you should always practice safe sex.