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Ebola Primer: How It Works And How It Spreads

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Ebola is a rare viral illness -- and now the CDC has diagnosed a case in the United States.

The virus is spread through contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with infected body fluids or surfaces contaminated with infected fluids. Typically, it is not spread through the air or water, or through food, though in Africa it has been spread through wild animal meat.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to the virus, but the average is eight to 10 days. Symptoms include high fever, muscle pain, diarrhea and vomiting, abdominal pain and hemorrhage.

Healthcare workers have been infected while treating patients, but generally when infection control precautions are not strictly practiced.

In hospitals, patients with suspected Ebola are to be kept in a private room with a closed door in standard, contact, and droplet isolation. That means staff should wear gloves, gowns, eye protection and a face mask.

Procedures requiring needles and procedures that might produce droplets, such as like suctioning, or inserting or removing a breathing tube, should be done carefully and only when absolutely necessary.

The death rate from Ebola averages 50 percent, though it has ranged from 25 to 90 percent in prior outbreaks.

There is no known treatment, but a range of blood, drug, immune therapies are being developed.

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