What is Ebola and how does it spread?

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease spread by direct contact with blood or body fluids of a person infected with Ebola virus. It is also spread by contact with a contaminated object or infected animal.

The Ebola virus can remain in certain body fluids of people who have recovered from Ebola. These body fluids include semen, fluids in the eye, and fluids found around the brain and spine.  It is possible for Ebola to spread through sex or other contact with the semen of a man who has recovered from Ebola.  

Who is at risk?

For most travelers, there is a very low risk for Ebola. Travelers who have close contact with nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas) or bats in tropical Africa are at risk. People who care for people sick with Ebola are also at risk. There have been confirmed cases in African countries such as Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, South Sudan, Uganda, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

What can travelers do to prevent Ebola?

Ebola virus

Although there is no approved or widely available vaccine for Ebola, travelers should take these steps to prevent infection:

  • Avoid contact with sick people, dead bodies, blood, or body fluids
    • Don’t handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Avoid contact with animals
    • Avoid contact with monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, and bats.
    • Don’t eat or handle raw or undercooked meat or any bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food).
  • Practice good hygiene
    • Wash your hands often. If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
    • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you must, make sure your hands are clean first.
  • Healthcare workers who may be exposed to people infected with Ebola virus should follow these steps:
  • If symptoms consistent with Ebola develop:
    • Talk to a doctor immediately. Tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you go to his or her office or emergency room.
    • For more information about medical care abroad, see Get Care Abroad.
    • If you are sick, try to stay away from others. Stay home or in your hotel room unless you need medical care.
Ebola lab

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