The Dallas case is the first known case of Ebola with illness onset and laboratory confirmation in the United States in a traveler returning from Ebola-affected West Africa. The West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are experiencing the largest Ebola epidemic in history. From March 24, 2014 through September 23, 2014, there have been 6,574 total cases and 3,091 total deaths reported in Africa. Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of four Ebola viruses that cause disease in humans. Ebola infection is associated with fever of greater than 101.5°F, and additional symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained bleeding. In general, once a person becomes symptomatic with Ebola, symptoms progress fairly quickly. There is no proven treatment for the disease but supportive care including intravenous fluids and blood products, if needed, are believed to reduce the risk of death. Two patients who acquired Ebola in Africa were successfully treated in a special unit at Emory University Hospital earlier this year.
Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes such as mouth or nasal passages) with blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, sweat, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola or contact with objects (such as needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with these fluids. The main source for spread is human-to-human transmission. Ebola is not spread through the air or water.
Persons are not contagious before they are symptomatic. The incubation period (the time from exposure until onset of symptoms) is typically 8-10 days, but can range from 2-21 days. Additional information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.