What you need to know about Ebola

Overnight, Queensland authorities were dealing with another suspected case of Ebola with a woman who recently returned from working in an Ebola hospital in Sierra Leone developing a low-grade fever.

After developing a low-grade fever on her return home to Cairns from a month-long assignment at a hospital in West Africa run by the International Red Cross, the woman self-reported herself to authorities, with the Queensland Health Department reporting her tests came back negative.

She was the second person to be tested for the disease in Australia. A man from the Gold Coast also returned a negative test result on September 11.

Unsure whether to go full Donald Trump and declare the end is nigh? Read on.

Can I get Ebola?
No one is immune to Ebola, but that being said, the only way Ebola is transmitted is through bodily fluids like vomit and diarrhea and blood. You really have to be up close and personal with an Ebola patient to be at risk for contracting the disease, which is why, so far anyway, Ebola has spread primarily among family members of the infected as well as those caring for them. It's not easy to catch Ebola, especially since it does not spread through the air.

Dr Chris Basler, a researcher specialising in Ebola at New York City’s Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, says, “To have something similar happen in a western country like what is happening in West Africa is extremely unlikely."

An Ebola patient in a Western country is much less likely to transmit the disease, Basler says. “They’ll become sick, go to a hospital, and because of the severe infection, the hospital will take the standard precautions to prevent the spread of the infection from one individual to another. It’ll be similar to the precautions one takes to prevent the transmission of HIV.”

What are the symptoms of Ebola?
Signs of Ebola will usually appear within two to 21 days of a person being infected. While fever, sore throat, muscle aches and other symptoms typically associated with a low-grade fever are warning signs, victims progress quickly into multi-organ failure, internal and external bleeding and, eventually, death.

So, do you have a fever or Ebola? There has never been a recorded case of Ebola in Australia and unless you have recently visited West Africa, or been in contact with someone who has visited the region, you’re in all likelihood cleared.

The risk of a case being imported to Australia from the affected countries is low, partly due to the very low volume of travel between Australia and the affected regions.


Will this be as bad as SARS?
Dr Grant Hill-Cawthorne, of the University of Sydney's Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, said Australia's preparedness goes back to the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, when many countries bolstered their plans for emerging infections.

An Ebola outbreak in Australia remains a low possibility in part because there are no direct flights from west Africa, he said.

"The UK is at high risk and that's simply because of the traditional relationship the UK has with Sierra Leone. In the same way, we weren't really surprised that the first case exported was Liberia through the US because they have traditional relationships," Dr Hill-Cawthorne said.

"Australia doesn't really have traditional relationships with west African countries. Overall, Australia is at pretty low risk."

Is Australia prepared?
Health Minister Peter Dutton said screening processes were in place for travellers entering Australia from Africa or people who suspect they have the disease.
'There have been some presentations in hospitals around the country where obviously it has been proven that people don't have Ebola,' he told reporters on Wednesday.
'People should be reassured by the fact that we have everything in place in this country to deal with somebody who may present, to quarantine (and) provide medical assistance to that person.'

More than 3400 people had died from Ebola in Africa as of last Friday, the World Health Organisation says. Recent UNICEF figures estimated at least 3700 children in those countries have lost one or both parents, and many have been shunned by relatives who fear being infected.