Message for U.S. Citizens: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever UPDATE

June 11, 2014: Recent reports confirm one new case of Ebola in Liberia as well as multiple cases in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.  The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor the situation closely and to support the efforts of Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) in its public health response.  Experts from the U.S. have assisted the MOHSW in diagnosing suspected cases, tracing contacts, and training medical workers throughout the country, although those experts are not currently in Liberia.

The bulleted list below, repeated from the Message to U.S citizens from April 15, 2014, provides information on transmission of the Ebola virus and easy precautions you can take to protect yourself:

  • The suspected reservoirs for Ebola are fruit bats.
  • Transmission to humans is thought to originate from infected bats or primates that have become infected by bats.
  • Undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat transmits the virus to humans.
  • Human to human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from the Ebola virus or their body fluids.
  • Transmission between humans almost exclusively occurs among caregiver family members and health care workers who tend to the very ill, or who prepare recently deceased bodies for burial without using adequate personal protection such as gloves, masks, and eye protection.
  • The virus is easily killed by contact with soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying.  A washing machine will kill the virus in clothing saturated with infected body fluids.
  • A person can incubate the virus without symptoms for 2-21 days, the average being five to eight days before becoming ill.  THE PERSON IS NOT CONTAGIOUS until they are acutely ill.
  • Only when ill does the viral load express itself first in the blood and then in other bodily fluids (to include vomit, feces, urine, breast milk, semen and sweat).
  • There are documented cases from Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo of an Ebola outbreak in a village that had the custom of children never touching an ill adult.  Children living for days in small one room huts with parents who died from Ebola did not become infected.
  • You cannot contract Ebola by handling money, buying local bread or swimming in a pool.
  • At this time, there is no medical reason to stop flights, close borders, restrict travel or close embassies, businesses or schools.
  • As always practice good hand washing techniques.