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The Ebola virus is typically spread when uninfected people come into direct contact with an infected person or his or her secretions or blood. This is common in hospitals during outbreaks. In a primate research facility in Virginia, the spread of a subtype of the Ebola virus from monkey to monkey appeared to have occurred through the air.

How Is the Ebola Virus Spread?

The spread of Ebola occurs through direct contact with an infected person or his or her body fluids (such as blood or secretions). The late stage of an infection is when transmission most often occurs.
Direct Contact With an Infected Person
Ebola can be spread through direct contact with an infected person, which most often occurs at a burial ceremony where mourners touch recently deceased victims.
Exposure to Infected Body Fluids
Another way that the spread of Ebola may occur involves direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person. A patient's family and friends are at increased risk for exposure this way, because they come in close contact with such secretions when caring for the infected person. People can also be exposed to the virus through contact with objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

How Does the Spread of Ebola Occur in Hospitals?

It is quite common for Ebola to spread in hospitals during outbreaks. Proper protection, such as a mask, gown, or gloves, is rarely used in African healthcare facilities. Exposure to the virus has occurred when healthcare workers treated individuals with Ebola hemorrhagic fever without wearing these types of protective clothing.
In addition, when needles or syringes are used, they may not be of the disposable type, or may not have been sterilized, but are only rinsed before reinsertion into multiuse vials of medicine. If needles or syringes become contaminated with the virus and are then reused, the infection can spread.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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