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Ebola virus hits the U.S.: What you need to know

Ebola virus hits the U.S.: What you need to know
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The deadly Ebola virus spreading through West Africa has arrived in the U.S. as a patient is now being treated in Dallas.

10/2/14 Update: The Associated Press is now reporting that as many as 100 people may have come into contact with the infected Ebola patient in Dallas. Health officials in Texas have reached out to these people to alert them to the signs and symptoms to look for over the next 3 weeks in case they were infected.

The affected people include those who had direct and indirect contact with the patient after signs of the illness began to show. The infected man, Thomas Eric Duncan, first sought treatment in the emergency room last week but was sent home without a diagnosis.

Duncan's family members are being held in quarantine at their home and monitored for symptoms. A cleaning company has been hired to sanitize the residence. Attendance at the school attended by Duncan's family members is reported to be down as some parents keep their kids at home.

Duncan was believed to be infected while visiting family in Liberia. Neighbors there say he helped a pregnant woman suffering from Ebola-like symptoms into a taxi so she could go to the hospital because no ambulances would come to get her. The woman eventually died and all the neighbors who helped her have either gotten sick or died. Duncan is currently in serious but stable condition.

Here's a list of the things you need to know about this situation, plus some resources that can help keep you and your family safe.

  1. Ebola is extremely infectious but not extremely contagious. A very small amount of the virus - possibly even a single virus - is enough to give somebody a fatal infection, but the disease is not airborne. Victims have to come in contact with fluids or a contaminated object from an infected patient.
  2. Symptoms typically include weakness, fever, aches, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain.
  3. A person is not infectious until they are experiencing symptoms of the disease.
  4. People who are aid workers or who have spent time in West Africa recently have a higher risk. People who travel a lot, especially overseas, could also be at a higher risk.
  5. You can protect yourself from Ebola - and most infections, actually - by washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The Dallas patient is the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with Ebola. He arrived in this country from West Africa on September 20 and initially showed no symptoms. Nearly a week after his arrival in the U.S., he fell ill and sought medical care.

He was then hospitalized and isolated Sunday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. According to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the man came in contact with about 18 people - including school children. They will all be monitored for at least the next 21 days.

Next page: More information about Ebola and how to protect against it
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