The current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak is centered on three countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, although there is the potential for further spread to neighboring African countries.  Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public.  There are no known cases of Ebola in the Austin/Travis County area.

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Questions and Answers on Ebola

The current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak is centered on three countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, although there is the potential for further spread to neighboring African countries.  Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public.  There are no known cases of Ebola in the Austin/Travis County area.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever disease.  Symptoms of Ebola may include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.  Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, although 8-10 days is most common.

How is Ebola transmitted?

Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:

  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals
  • There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus.

Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn’t have any symptoms?

No.  A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.

What is being done to prevent ill passengers in West Africa from getting on a plane?

Airports in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, in cooperation with CDC, are screening outbound travelers for Ebola symptoms, including fever, and passengers are required to respond to a health questionnaire.  CDC is also currently providing screening of incoming passengers at five major US airports.

What is the CDC doing in the United States to help prvent the spread of Ebola?

In the event that an ill traveler arrives the U.S., CDC has protocols in place to protect against further spread of disease.  These include notification to CDC of ill travelers on a plane before arrival, evaluation of ill travelers, isolation, and transport to a medical facility if needed. CDC, along with Customs & Border Patrol, has also provided guidance to airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft.  CDC has issued a Health Alert Notice reminding U.S. healthcare workers of the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus, how to test and isolate suspected patients, and how they can protect themselves from infection.

What is the Austin/Travis County Health & Human Services Department doing?

The Austin/Travis County Health & Human Services Department (A/TCHHSD) is working closely with the CDC, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), EMS, and hospitals to monitor the current situation in Texas and nationally and to ensure that all public health and healthcare sectors are prepared to respond in the event that a person is diagnosed with Ebola in our area.

What about ill Americans with Ebola who are being brought to the United States for treatment? How is CDC protecting the American public?

CDC has very well-established protocols in place to ensure the safe transport and care of patients with infectious diseases back to the United States.  These procedures cover the entire process – from patients leaving their bedside in a foreign country to their transport to an airport and boarding a non-commercial airplane equipped with a special transport isolation unit, to their arrival at a medical facility in the United States that is appropriately equipped and staffed to handle such cases.  CDC’s role is to ensure that travel and hospitalization is done to minimize risk of spread of infection and to ensure that the American public is protected.

What does the CDC’s Travel Alert Level 3 mean to U.S. travelers?

CDC recommends that U.S. residents avoid nonessential travel to Liberia.  If you must travel, such as for humanitarian aid work in response to the outbreak, protect yourself by following CDC’s advice for avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are ill with Ebola.

Sources: www.strac.org; www.setrac.org; www.cdc.gov/ebola