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Ebola - how much do you know about the virus?

4 minute read
Ebola - how much do you know about the virus?

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 6:00am 16th October 2014. (Updated at 4:19pm 10th June 2015)

The Government says a case in Britain is now entirely possible, but how much do you know about Ebola?

We know that people can catch it by exchanging bodily fluids, but how exactly does that work?

According to the NHS the Ebola virus can survive several days outside the body.

So if you sneeze onto say your kitchen surface today, someone could still get infected by it on Wednesday.

All they would need to do is come into contact with the saliva and then touch their mouth, nose or eye.

It is the same with sweat, urine and faeces, which is why so many people who care for Ebola victims also end up contracting the virus.

However, it is not as infectious as say the flu, because it is not airborne.

Will screening work?

Gatwick, Heathrow and Eurostar terminals are now screening passengers for the virus.

But what if a case was to emerge in the UK?

Dr Nicolas Locker is a Virology Lecturer at the University of Surrey, he thinks we would cope but not by screening people: ""We have all the public measures in place from Public Health England and NHS staff are trained, so we will be able to cope with an outbreak."

"The best measure to control the outbreak is isolation of the patient, it is usually for 21 days which is the incubation period making sure that while people are infectious we cannot get in touch with them.

"Since 1976 we have had 12 outbreaks of Ebola, all of them have been contained at the time using basic isolation measures.

"So with this current outbreak it is exactly the same."

Early symptoms at a glance

Muscle aches
Sore throat


How to avoid Ebola

Washing hands with soap and water can destroy the virus and experts say that it is very unlikely it will spread if it reaches the UK.

Ebola is generally not spread through routine social contact (such as shaking hands) with patients who do not have symptoms. 

Photo of a woman washing her hands

Traditional African burial rituals also played a part in its spread so far.

The Ebola virus can survive for several days outside the body, including on the skin of an infected person, and it is common practice for mourners to touch the body of the deceased in some African countries.

Having sex without a condom can lead to Ebola being passed on and the virus is present in semen for up to seven weeks after the infected person has recovered.

Do I have Ebola?

If you feel unwell with symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat or rash within 21 days of coming back from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, you should stay at home and immediately telephone 111 or 999 and explain that you have recently visited West Africa.

We are being told that we should avoid going to A&E or a GP surgery as that would risk spreading the virus further.

There is no cure for Ebola and the current outbreak has a mortality rate of around 50-60%.

Experimental drugs are being used in some cases, with some success, but they are not always effective and supplies are low.

Ebola at a glance

Symptoms: It starts with a high fever - progresses very quickly with strong headaches, nausea, diahorrea and attacks internal organs causing internal bleeding. It is the internal bleeding that can eventually lead to death.

No cure: There is no vaccine or specific anti-biotics to treat Ebola. Patients are kept hydrated and experimental drugs are being used in some cases.

It's happened before: Since 1976 there have been 12 outbreaks of Ebola, all of them were contained at the time with basic isolation measures. 

Will it spread in the UK?: We have all the public measures in place and all the NHS staff are trained, so we will should be able to prevent an outbreak even if some cases emerge.

How it is spread: Ebola is spread via contacted with infected blood and other bodily fluids. It is not airborne, it is not transmitted by shaking hands or kissing people.

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