How can the Ebola Virus be transmitted?

As the US deals with three cases of Ebola and what seems like a growing list of people who might have been exposed it, it is important to know what the virus is capable of.

Ebola-infected nurse Amber Vinson was transported from Dallas to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital Wednesday and the National Institutes of Health took in her colleague Nina Pham in Maryland Thursday.

Despite this, a UIC specialist says fear of the virus spreading needs to be knocked down.

"Viruses have to live inside cells to be viable or within body fluids, and so if there is a body fluid and it dries up, the virus is pretty much inactivated or dead," said Dr. Richard Novak, University of Illinois at Chicago infectious disease specialist. "Ebola doesn't survive when it is dried up."

That's why medical staffs are taking elaborate precautions, yet at least two medical workers were infected treating Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person with Ebola in America who died in Dallas Oct. 8.

On Capitol Hill Thursday the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and the NIH said they don't know exactly how that happened. But Novak says nothing changed with the virus.

"We don't believe Ebola is transmitted by aerosol, but the guidance is to use disinfectants and wipe down all surfaces - that probably will work for Ebola," Novak said.

Yet the prospect of transmission is among the most frightening of scenarios, a key side-effect of Ebola.

To get infected with Ebola, ABC's Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser wrote in the Washington Post Wednesday that "you need direct contact with the bodily fluids of a patient who is symptomatic of the disease - someone very sick indeed. This is not casual contact."

Besser wrote that in some Ebola outbreaks, 25 percent of cases are in the medical workers who are taking care of Ebola patients, and the rest are mostly seen in those who provide care in the home and who have touched the bodies of victims at funerals.

"You cannot get Ebola walking through an airport or speaking to someone with the disease," Besser wrote.

And the CDC said Thursday that despite earlier missteps, if a patient has been to West Africa or treated an infected person, what to do is simple.

"Think Ebola, anyone with travel history and symptoms, second, any time a patient is suspected, isolate them, contact us," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC.

CDC and NIH officials are confident a vaccine might be developed relatively quickly. It is being tested on people on a fast-track basis.
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