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Plain Talk About How Ebola Spreads

October 19, 2014
Plain English Version

ebolaThe entire country is worried about the Ebola epidemic. There are less than a handful of cases with Ebola symptoms in the U.S. They are all in Texas. The only person who died of the disease got it in Liberia. He was treated in a Texas hospital.

A big question is how do you get Ebola? It usually comes through close and direct physical contact with the person who has it. The contact is through bodily fluids: blood, feces, vomit and/or sweat.

It can come from contact with surfaces and objects. However, scientists say the risk is low. When it is on a surface or object, it survives for only several hours. Disinfecting the surface or object lowers the danger even more.

The big concern is whether the virus can become airborne.

Scientists say viruses do not change the way they are transmitted. A virus transmitted by mosquitos causes yellow fever. Measles and chickenpox create dry droplets suspended in air. Walking through the cloud of droplets may transmit the illness.

Ebola is found in larger, wet droplets that are not carried in the air.

People are worried that the spread of Ebola can happen through coughing and sneezing. However, Ebola does not cause either of these to happen. In theory, it is possible for heavy virus droplets to land on an open cut of another person nearby and cause infection.

A scientist said there is no evidence that Ebola is spread through the air.

This information may not help. The Ebola virus has created near panic among politicians. There is a great deal of criticism of the response of the federal government.

It is the most important national news story. Only time will tell whether the fears are well founded.

Source: The Wall Street Journal October 16, 2014

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