Doctors' Notes

Are You At Risk For Ebola?

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Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents (and husband and wife) physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via talkback@jetmag.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


Hysteria surrounding the two Ebola-stricken nurses has everyone wondering about the possibility of an epidemic of the deadly virus.  As a result, myths abound surrounding the Ebola virus.  While experts contend that the likelihood of contracting the disease in this country remains low, here are a few of the myths we’ve heard and some facts about Ebola that you should know.

Myth #1

Ebola is transmitted by air.

Unlike the common cold and flu viruses, the Ebola virus is not a respiratory virus and is not transmitted through the air.  This virus is only transmitted when there is contact with infected bodily fluids either directly or through contaminated objects.  This includes but is not limited to blood, sweat, urine, semen, breast milk, and needles.

Myth #2

Symptoms of the Ebola virus are unique.

In fact, the symptoms of Ebola can be very vague.  The most common symptoms include high fever (101.5 degrees or above), headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding.  These symptoms can often mimic other illnesses.  Therefore the most important factor in determining the likelihood of exposure to the deadly virus is known contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or recent travel to the areas where the Ebola virus is active.

Myth #3

If someone contracted Ebola, they’d know it right away.

Ebola is one of many viruses that can have a delayed onset of symptoms after exposure to the virus.  The incubation period is 8 to 10 days on average, but can range from 2 to 21 days.  This means that a potential exposure could have occurred up to three weeks before the first symptoms ever appear.

Myth #4

Someone can pass the Ebola virus to another before they know they are ill.

The Ebola virus can only be transmitted by those that are symptomatic.  The interesting thing about this virus is that it can also be transmitted post-mortem or after death.  Therefore, those touching or handling the a deceased Ebola victim’s body during funeral preparations are also at risk.

Myth #5

There is a cure for Ebola.

There is currently no cure for Ebola and the death rate for those infected can be as high as 90 percent.  There is a fraction of Ebola patients that recover spontaneously and/or through supportive care.  In the highly publicized case of the Americans currently fighting Ebola, they have received experimental treatments that are currently under research trials to test their safety and effectiveness.  While we remain optimistic about the potential of these treatments to become a cure, more testing is necessary.


It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors: Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!