Ebola

Gundersen Health System wants to make sure our patients and community have the most current and accurate information regarding Ebola. If you have suspected symptoms, call Gundersen Telephone Nurse Advisor at (800) 858-1050. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a virus that causes problems with how your blood clots. r This is because the clotting problems lead to internal bleeding, as blood leaks from small blood vessels in your body. The virus also causes inflammation and tissue damage. Five different species of the virus have been found.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids of people infected with it. These fluids are:

  • Blood
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Tears
  • Mucus
  • Vomit
  • Feces
  • Breast milk
  • Urine
  • Semen

It is also spread by touching things that have been contaminated with these fluids.

Ebola is hard to treat, and may cause death in an average of about 10 days from the start of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?

Symptoms of Ebola can start 2 to 21 days after being infected by the virus. They most often start about 8 to 10 days after being exposed to the virus. The first symptoms are similar to the flu.

Early symptoms include:

  • Fever of 101.5°F (38.6°C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches

These symptoms show up several days later:

  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Less urine or no urine
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Red rash that doesn’t itch or hurt, and may peel after awhile
  • Redness and bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, and rectum

Later stages of the illness can cause:

  • Organ failure
  • Inflammation of the brain
  • Lack of blood flow in the body (shock)
  • Death

Who is at risk for Ebola?

If you've been to a place where people have been sick with Ebola or animals may carry Ebola, you may be at risk for infection. You are at risk if you:
Were in a place where Ebola patients were being treated and had contact with them
Touched blood or body fluids (saliva, sweat, tears, mucus, vomit, feces, breast milk, urine, or semen) from a person with Ebola
Touched sheets, towels, clothes, personal objects, or other items that had contact with a person with Ebola

Washing your hands often is the best way to keep from spreading disease.

What to do if you are at risk

If you have been exposed to Ebola:

  • Call your health care provider. He or she can talk with local health staff to see what action may be needed.
  • Keep watch for early symptoms of Ebola for 21 days.
  • Take your temperature every morning and evening. This is to check for fever.

If you have a fever or other Ebola symptoms:

  • Don’t panic. Keep in mind that other illnesses can cause similar symptoms.
  • Call the nearest hospital emergency room. Explain that you have been exposed to Ebola and have symptoms. Do this before going to the hospital. This will help the hospital staff get ready for your arrival.
  • Keep in mind that hospital staff may wear protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection. This is to prevent the possible virus from spreading.
  • Follow all instructions the hospital staff gives you.

How is Ebola treated?

Currently no medicine is available to cure Ebola. Treatment for Ebola is done to help support your body while it fights the disease. This is known as supportive care. It includes therapies that help your body during severe illness. Supportive care may include:

  • Fluids given through a vein (IV) to help keep your body hydrated
  • Supplemental oxygen or assisted ventilation to keep enough oxygen in your body
  • Dialysis to help clear waste from the blood
  • Vasopressors to help raise blood pressure that is too low
  • Medications to help your blood clot

Blood, urine, and other tests may be done regularly. This is to check for chemicals that show how well the organs are working. The tests also look for signs of the virus that continue or go away. Your blood pressure will be checked regularly.

In rare cases, experimental treatment may be used. These are treatments that are not yet proven to work, but may work. They are not approved by the FDA, but may be allowed in some cases. Experimental treatments may include:

  • Convalescent serum. This is the liquid part of blood (serum) taken from a person who is recovering from Ebola. It is then put into the body of a person sick with Ebola.
  • Medications. This includes medicines that act on blood-clotting factors or parts of the Ebola virus.
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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