Get the facts
As the United States recorded its first Ebola death this week and Spain reported its first two cases while Brazil, Australia and Macedonia investigate suspected infections, fears are mounting about the outbreak which has gripped West Africa since March.
Latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show there have been 8,376 cases and 4,033 deaths.
As the disease spreads, so too are the rumours about how Ebola is contracted.
Here are the facts, as outlined by the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
How is Ebola transmitted?
Ebola is spread through: direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes, like the eyes, nose, or mouth) with blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, sweat, faeces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola; objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus; and infected animals. It is not usually transmitted through just casual contact, such as shaking hands or brushing past someone.
You cannot get Ebola through the air.
Ebola is not an airborne disease like influenza or chicken pox, and the WHO categorically states that reports suggesting that Ebola has mutated and has become airborne are false.
Air travel is low-risk for Ebola transmission.
The WHO does not consider air transport hubs high risk for further spread of Ebola because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is low. The health agency says on the small chance that someone on a plane is sick with Ebola, the likelihood of other passengers and crew having contact with their body fluids is even smaller. Usually when someone is sick with Ebola, they are so unwell that they cannot travel. WHO is therefore advising against travel bans to and from affected countries.
You cannot get Ebola through water.
Ebola does not contaminate water supplies like cholera.
You cannot get Ebola from food.
“If food products are properly prepared and cooked, humans cannot become infected by consuming them; the Ebola virus is inactivated through cooking,” the WHO advises.
You cannot get Ebola from mosquitoes
There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit the Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
You cannot get Ebola from someone who is not sick.
The virus only appears in the bodily fluids of an infected person after they already have symptoms, so a carrier can’t unknowingly spread it before they feel sick.
“The time from exposure to when signs or symptoms of the disease appear – the incubation period – is two to 21 days but the average time is eight to 10 days,” the CDC says.
You can get Ebola from touching an infected surface.
The Ebola virus can survive outside the body, so coming into direct contact with infected bodily fluids on surfaces such as bedding, clothing or furniture and then touching your eyes or mouth can spread the disease.
According to the CDC: “Ebola on surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops can survive for several hours. However, [the] virus in body fluids such as blood can survive up to several days at room temperature.”
The CDC says Ebola is killed with hospital-grade disinfectants, such as household bleach.
What are the symptoms?
The initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, muscle soreness and a sore throat.
Later down the line, though, patients experience vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, kidney and liver failure, as well as internal and external bleeding.
How should I protect myself?
The best defence is to wash your hands thoroughly, after any public outings, touching handrails or greeting other people with a handshake.
Wherever possible, do not bring your hands into contact with your mouth without washing them thoroughly first.
Be extremely careful when caring for sick relatives – dispose of tissues in sealed plastic bags. Wear gloves if you have to deal with soiled bed sheets or clothing.