Questions & Answers

Q1: When Ebola virus is transmitted from an infected person to another person will the signs of the disease be visible immediately?

A1: When Ebola virus has been transmitted from a sick person to another person, then the signs will not be immediately seen. It takes the so-called incubation period from the virus entering your body, replicating in billions in it, and then you fall sick and show symptoms (headache, fever, vomiting, diarrhea). This can be any time from 2 days only to 21 days (3 weeks). If you do not show signs after 21 days you will stay healthy.

Q2: Is the vaccine against Ebola virus only important for the patient?

A2: The vaccine against Ebola virus is only important for people who had contact with a sick person. As fast as possible (see above), better in less than 2 days. Unfortunately, it can't help patients who are already sick at all. Vaccinations are for prevention (to avoid getting sick after contact). If you are sick, there is treatment with very new medicaments (antivirals and antibodies).

Q3: A simple prevention to protect yourself from the Ebola virus is to avoid going to the affected area or, if you go there, not to touch any patient, right?

A3: The best and simplest prevention of all is not to come anywhere close to a person who is sick or has died from Ebola virus disease. That's why sick persons should be treated only in specialized treatment centers and not at home. And the deceased have to be buried by the safe and dignified burial team. Staying out of the affected area and especially not to engage in public meetings, crowds, markets is also a good idea. But sometimes you can't avoid it. So regular handwashing is a must. Also washing your clothes often. And personal hygiene. No handshaking or close contact with anybody while traveling. No sharing of food or food you don't know where it comes from.

Q4: Is there any effective treatment that can cure Ebola virus disease?

A4: Yes and no. The treatment we have at the moment is brand new. It worked in monkeys and apes. It also worked in people. For example in West African patients and several European and American doctors who got infected while helping in West Africa were treated with these new drugs. Several patients were cured, few died. So it is not 100% effective. The earlier one gets this specific treatment the higher are the chances of survival and being 100% cured. That's why it is very important that when you think you have Ebola virus disease call the response team on the free number as fast as possible. Even hours can make the difference between life and death.

Q5: Can drinking salty water, lemon juice or onion preparations prevent the disease?

A5: Drinking salty water, lemon juice or onion preparations CAN NOT at all prevent the disease. No! lemon juice and onions might be healthy in general but are completely useless in preventing Ebola virus disease. It's like HIV, it's a virus. You can only prevent it to enter your body by not getting in contact with it.

Q6: Why is Ebola a very serious, contagious and hemorrhagic disease?

A6: Because it is a disease of animals. We don't know exactly for Ebola yet where it comes from. But we know for its "cousin brother" Marburg virus. Looks very similar to Ebola virus. Causes almost identical deadly disease in humans. And in monkeys and apes, like Ebola. But Marburg virus had been found in totally healthy bats in Uganda and you would probably also find Marburg virus in healthy bats in DRCongo. So this type of viruses have adapted themselves over thousands of years to live in peaceful coexistence with bats or other animals which we don't know yet. But if they enter into monkeys, apes, humans it is a new disease for them. Which they are not used to. So that's why they get horribly sick. And sometimes bleed. And often die.

Q7: Can people who have been healed transmit the virus after their recovery?

A7: Patients who have been cured can not transmit the virus by normal contact. Even like handshaking. When they are discharged from the Ebola treatment center, the doctors make sure they test them several times till they are proven negative. But there is one dangerous issue: Ebola virus can survive in semen of healthy survivors for many months (up to 18 months or longer). So safe sex (using condoms) for long time is a must. And regular medical follow-up of the survivors. But the virus can not be found in survivor's saliva, sweat, urine, feces or other body fluids anymore. So living with them as relatives or neighbors is no problem and they should not be stigmatized or discriminated as their life is already hard enough having hardly survived such a severe disease.

Q8: After having been infected with Ebola virus can it be detected by a blood test like malaria?

A8: After infection with Ebola virus one can be found positive by a laboratory test only after she or he is showing signs. So the earliest time would be after 2-21 days since having contracted the disease. The most accurate test is done from blood. There is a simpler test for which no laboratory is needed (if the patient is far away in the forest for example). This test looks like a stick and uses saliva. It changes color if the test finds virus. But the blood test has always been done in order to confirm. It is very similar to HIV testing. There is a simple quick test for screening, followed by a more accurate blood test in a laboratory.