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The recent deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa—the worst in history—has seized the world’s attention, along with news that the virus has shown up in the United States.
Ebola is an acute viral illness characterized by the sudden onset of fever, debilitating weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. People often confuse the illness’ early symptoms with cold or flu symptoms.
Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air or through contaminated food or water. Ebola can only spread to other humans via contact with their bodily fluids, including saliva, sweat, blood and vomit, so people can only get Ebola from touching the bodily fluids of a person or animal that is sick with or has died from Ebola, or from exposure to contaminated objects, such as needles.
Though the Ebola outbreak has shown up in America, health officials have stressed repeatedly that the general public is at very low risk for contracting the virus, and they are instructing health workers on the proper precautions to take if they are called upon to treat an infected patient.