As Ebola continues to spread, especially in West Africa, so has misinformation about how the virus is transmitted. That confusion escalated this week in the United States after a Liberian man was diagnosed with the Ebola in Dallas.
Up to 100 people have been identified as having “potential or possible contacts” with the victim, Thomas E. Duncan, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. However, of those identified, only a few have had direct contact with Duncan.
Health experts warn that false information about Ebola transmission has resulted in unintended hysteria. For example, a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that nearly 40 percent of those surveyed believe there will be a large Ebola outbreak in the U.S. within 12 months.
But health officials contacted by Al Jazeera consistently played down those fears.
How is Ebola transmitted?
The dangerous virus, which has killed more than 3,000 people in Africa this year, is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids — saliva, sweat, blood, semen and other secretions — from a person who is experiencing symptoms. Those include high fever, diarrhea, vomiting, severe headaches, muscle pain, weakness, abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The incubation period, from when a person is infected to the onset of symptoms, ranges from two to 21 days, according to UNICEF.
Are airline passengers at risk if someone on board has Ebola symptoms?
CDC director Tom Friedan said this week that "100 percent of the individuals getting on planes (in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Lagos) are screened for fever before they get on a plane." If anyone is found with a high fever, a symptom of Ebola, they are pulled out of line.
Duncan, the Texas patient, traveled from Liberia to the U.S. before being diagnosed with Ebola. However, "he didn't get sick until four days after he got off the airplane,"Friedan said. "We do not believe there is any risk to anyone who was on the flight at that time."