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What is Ebola and should you be worried?

Two American Ebola virus patients are being treated at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia.
Two American Ebola virus patients are being treated at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

There is a lot of news about the Ebola virus lately. Two diagnosed American citizens have entered the United States in the last few days, the first cases of Ebola inside our borders. This is a deadly and highly infectious disease. Should you be worried about it spreading here and beyond? What should you look for symptom wise? How does it spread? Are you safe?

Ebola virus causes disease in humans and non-human primates. This virus is named for the Ebola River near where the disease was first discovered in 1976 in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The symptoms: Within two days to three weeks of contact, those infected experience joint and muscle pain, fever, headache and general weakness, stomach pain and lack of appetite. Others may also experience red eyes, rashes, hiccups and a cough with sore throat or chest pain. This is followed by nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Some victims bleed inside and outside of the body and have trouble breathing. Kidney and liver function decline. There is no known treatment. The mortality rate runs between 50 and 90 percent.

Ebola virus can be transmitted from human to human, and is initially spread by contact with infected animals including pigs, monkeys and fruit bats through blood or body fluids. The infected Americans that returned to the United States did so under strict quarantine, making risk of transmission virtually non-existent. Their condition is reportedly improving.

All cases of human illness or death from the virus have taken place in Africa, with the exception of three laboratory contamination cases (one in the United Kingdom and two in Russia). The odds of being in contact with the virus are minimal, but the odds of surviving it are against you. It is recommended you not travel to areas experiencing an Ebola virus outbreak. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease.

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Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wikipedia,

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