Ebola is a dangerous virus that can cause people to get very sick and even die. The virus is causing the biggest problems in western Africa, where it has spread quickly. People all over the world are concerned about Ebola and are taking steps to stop it and to treat those who are sick. So far, there's no sign that Ebola will spread to other continents.
Ebola symptoms can start with fever and headache, kind of like the flu. But it can get worse and cause life-threatening symptoms, such as bleeding and trouble breathing.
It's very important that infected people get treatment right away. People who have Ebola also need to be cared for in a special way so that the disease doesn't spread to doctors, nurses, or others in their families and communities.
So far, no one has caught the virus in the United States. Some people from the United States who were working in Africa did get Ebola, but they were successfully treated in U.S. hospitals.
How Do People Catch Ebola?
Ebola does not spread like colds or the flu because it does not float through the air. Ebola doesn't spread through food or water, like some other viruses.
Instead, Ebola spreads when someone touches the body fluids (such as spit) of a sick person. That's why it's so important that hospital workers protect themselves by wearing surgical gloves and other protective equipment.
What Is an Outbreak?
An outbreak is when many people are getting sick with the same illness around the same time. You may have heard of a flu outbreak, which is when lots of people get sick from the same types of flu virus. When an outbreak happens because of a virus, more people could get sick because there is a lot of that virus around.
Where Did Ebola Come From?
Scientists aren't sure how the first person gets Ebola at the start of an outbreak. But they think that people may pick up the virus by touching or eating infected animals. Tropical animals in Africa believed to carry the virus include great apes and other primates, fruit bats, porcupines, and forest antelope.
Ebola gets its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The disease was first reported in a village on the river in 1976. Since then, there have been a few outbreaks of the disease in western Africa, Uganda, and Sudan.
What Do Kids Need to Do about Ebola?
Kids who don't live in Africa are not likely to meet anyone who has Ebola. But no matter where you live, it's a good idea to keep up your routine of hand washing. If you keep your hands clean, you can help prevent more common illnesses, such as colds and the flu.
Kids who have questions about this or any other illness, should talk to a parent or another trusted adult.