When it comes to Ebola, prevention involves avoiding direct contact with the body fluid of infected people. Also, it's important to avoid direct contact with the body of an Ebola victim who has died. For healthcare workers in Africa, who are most likely to encounter cases of Ebola, prevention focuses on being able to recognize cases of the disease when they appear, as well as using barrier isolation techniques to avoid direct contact with infected people.
Once an Ebola outbreak begins, the effects of the virus can be devastating. There is no Ebola cure, and once a person develops an Ebola virus infection, the chance of death can be as high as 90 percent.
Because there is no Ebola vaccine that is currently licensed, Ebola prevention focuses on preventing direct contact with body fluid of those infected with the virus. Another aspect of Ebola prevention involves avoiding direct contact with the body of an Ebola victim who has died as a result of the virus.
Ebola prevention in Africa presents many challenges. Because the identity and location of the animal host of Ebola virus are unknown, there are few established primary Ebola 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 Ebola diagnostic tests and be ready to employ practical Ebola isolation precautions or barrier nursing techniques. These techniques include:
- The use of infection-control measures, including complete sterilization of equipment
- The isolation of patients with Ebola hemorrhagic fever from contact with unprotected people
- The wearing of protective clothing, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles.
(Click Ebola Pictures for an example of barrier isolation techniques.)