Can you prepare for an Ebola outbreak?
By Melissa Smith // Jul 02, 2019

In 2014, the Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa where 11,000 people died. Although it was contained for a few years, it has re-emerged in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ebola virus causes severe hemorrhagic fever with up to a 90 percent death rate. An infected person will show symptoms within two to 21 days.


Its symptoms start out like the flu, with cough, sore throat, fever, aches and pains, diarrhea, malaise, nausea, and vomiting. As the virus advances, the victim starts to get bruising, rashes, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, and multiple organ failure leading to death.

A person can contract the virus by being exposed to infected bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, vomit, perspiration, or stools. In many African countries, the practice of preparing their deceased loved ones for burial is often the cause of exposure. It can also spread via sexual contact because the virus can stay in sperm for months, even as the victim recovers. (Related: Ebola virus remains in survivors' semen six months after recovery.)

Preparing for an outbreak

Currently, there is no cure for the Ebola virus disease, so preparing for an outbreak is important. Here are some tips that can help you cope if anything happens:

  • Try not to panic. If you panic, you may become incapacitated and unable to make proper decisions.
  • Discuss the situation with your close family members. Talk to them how you feel and what would you do in case an outbreak occurs. Consider at what point would you skip work or keep your children home from school in such a situation. Also, consider if you would stay home or go to another place.
  • Watch, listen, or read the news. It is important to be aware of what’s going on. Learn the facts and stay away from fear-mongering stories to avoid panic.
  • Know the laws about quarantine and isolation. Legal authorities will do what is needed to stop the spread of disease, and that includes quarantining and isolating potentially infected people if warranted.
  • Learn how to sanitize your home with bleach.
  • Have at least a month’s supply of N-95 masks, bleach, disposable gloves, toilet paper, trash bags, water, food, and first aid.

Preventing the spread of the Ebola virus

The Centers for Disease and Prevention suggests avoiding the following in an area affected by Ebola:

  • Contact with blood and bodily fluids, including breast milk, feces, saliva, sweat, urine, vomit, semen, and vaginal fluids.
  • Objects that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids, such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment.
  • Funeral or burial rituals that need handling of the body of a person who died from the Ebola virus disease.
  • Contact with bats and nonhuman primates, such as baboons and macaques, or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals or meat from an unknown source.
  • Contact with semen from a man who had Ebola virus disease until you know the virus is gone from the semen.

Apply these same prevention methods when traveling to an area affected by an Ebola outbreak. After returning from an area affected by Ebola, monitor your health for 21 days. If you develop symptoms of Ebola virus disease, seek medical help right away.

Sources include:

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