Alex Mitchley
2 minute read
18 Aug 2014
1:34 pm

5 myths about the Ebola virus

Alex Mitchley

With the Ebola death toll well over 1000, the fear has led to the spread of rumours, myths and misinformation. We bust five commonly held myths about the deadly virus.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical staff members wearing protective clothing work at the MSF facility in Kailahun, on August 14, 2014

1) This is the first outbreak of Ebola

False: The 2014 outbreak may be the biggest, but is not the first.

Ebola was first identified in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and spread to Sudan, with a reported 602 people infected, of which 431 people died.

Since 1976 the virus has popped up around Africa with outbreaks claiming lives in different countries. In 1995, in the DRC which killed 250 people, 2000-2001 in Uganda where 224 people died, then in 2007 in the DRC which killed 187 people.

Members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) put on protective gear at the isolation ward of Donka Hospital, on July 23, 2014 in Conakry, where a Liberian man is being treated for Ebola-like symptoms. Picture: AFP.

Members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) put on protective gear at the isolation ward of Donka Hospital, on July 23, 2014 in Conakry, where a Liberian man is being treated for Ebola-like symptoms. Picture: AFP.

2) Medical teams brought Ebola into Africa

False: The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that a medical team were accused of bringing the virus into Guinea, these claims are untrue.

The Ebola virus is believed to be carried by bats. Although bats are considered the natural reservoir for Ebola it is more likely that humans become infected from handling primates and other infected mammals.

Image courtesy Freerangestock.com (Wilmarie Groenewald)

Image courtesy Freerangestock.com (Wilmarie Groenewald)

3) The Ebola virus is airborne, waterborne and can be contracted through casual contact

False: the virus can only be spread when the bodily fluids of an infected person comes into with another person or when undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat is consumed by humans.

Ebola can be contracted by contact of the infected person’s blood, sweat or urine that comes into contact with a healthy person’s eyes, mouth, nostrils, genitals or an open wound. Airborne transmission has not been documented.

Image courtesy Borja Fernández/Freerangestock.com

Image courtesy Borja Fernández/Freerangestock.com

4) A person who recovered from the Ebola virus is still infectious

False: Only people who are exhibiting symptoms can pass the virus on.

These symptoms include fevers, headaches, vomiting as well as diarrhoea. However the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that men who had Ebola could still be able transmit the virus via his semen for just less than two months after being sick.

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

5) There are cures for the Ebola virus

False: There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for the Ebola virus. Hospital treatment is based on giving patients intravenous fluids to stop dehydration and antibiotics to fight infections.

The WHO stoked fierce debate after it declared it ethical to try largely untested treatments “in the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak”. A Canadian vaccine called VSV-EBOV which has shown promise in animal research, but never been tested in humans while another barely-tested drug from the US called ZMapp has shown positive early results.

Currently strict medical infection control and rapid burial are regarded as the best means of prevention.

 

READ MORE: 10 things you need to know about Ebola