How does Ebola spread?

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Keith Roach, MD
Internal Medicine
Ebola spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of infected, symptomatic people -- for example, blood, saliva, urine and feces of somebody who has been infected and showing signs of Ebola. The virus has an incubation perod from 2-31 days, but is most commonly between 8-10 days. In that period of time, when the person is not symptomatic, his or her Ebola is not transmissable.  
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Ebola is spread by the direct contact with the virus, usually from human to human. Ebola only lives in cells. It doesn't live in water for very long -- seconds at most -- or on a tabletop (if not in cells). The only non-human carriers that we know of are bats and some animals in Africa, but you'd have to eat the undercooked, infected animal or otherwise come into close contact with its cells of fluids to be at risk.  
Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:
  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola,
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick with Ebola or the body of a person who has died from Ebola,
  • infected fruit bats or primates (apes and monkeys), and
  • possibly from contact with semen from a man who has recovered from Ebola (for example, by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex)
Ebola is not spread through the air, by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (e.g., humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.

Ebola virus has been found in the semen of some men who have recovered from Ebola. It is possible that Ebola could be spread through sex or other contact with semen. Until more information is known, avoid contact with semen from a man who has had Ebola. 

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Continue Learning about Ebola

Ebola

Ebola

Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is caused by a family of viruses that originate in central and west Africa. The disease is rare and occurs in sporadic outbreaks. Ebola is spread through direct co...

ntact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals or objects, such as needles or bedsheets, that have been contaminated with the virus. Your risk of contracting Ebola is very low unless you visit an area where it is widespread. There are no approved treatments for the disease, but some experimental treatments have shown promise. Vaccines are currently under development.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.