The primary means of preventing Ebola involves avoiding direct contact with the body fluid of infected people, as well as anyone who has died from the disease. For healthcare workers in Africa, who are most likely to encounter cases of Ebola, prevention focuses on recognizing cases of the disease when they appear, as well as using barrier isolation techniques.
Once an Ebola outbreak begins, the effects of the virus can be devastating. There is no Ebola cure, and once a person develops an infection, the chance of death can be as high as 90 percent.
Because there is no vaccine at this time, Ebola prevention focuses on avoiding direct contact with body fluids of those infected with the virus, as well as avoiding direct contact with the body of someone who has died from the virus.
(Click Ebola Vaccine for more information about the development of a possible cure.)
Ebola prevention in Africa presents many challenges. Because the identity and location of the animal host of the virus are unknown, there are just a few established primary prevention measures.
If cases of Ebola do appear, current social and economic conditions often favor the spread of an epidemic within healthcare facilities; therefore, healthcare providers must be able to recognize a case of Ebola should one appear. They must also have the capability to perform diagnostic tests and be ready to employ practical isolation precautions or barrier nursing techniques. These techniques include:
- Using infection-control measures, including complete sterilization of equipment
- Isolating people with Ebola hemorrhagic fever from contact with unprotected people
- Wearing protective clothing, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles.
(Click Ebola Pictures for an example of barrier isolation techniques.)