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Sierra Leone Health Ministry Answers Citizens’ Ebola Questions
By Sierra Leone Ministry of Health & Sanitation
Jun 4, 2014, 17:10
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1. What is Ebola virus disease?

Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness, with a death rate of up to 90%. The illness affects human and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks: in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and in a remote area of Sudan. The origin of the virus is unknown but fruits bats are considered most likely as a host of the Ebola virus based on available evidence.


2. Is an infected person contagious if symptoms have not appeared?

Before the symptoms appear, that is the incubation period, often 2 to 21 days, an Ebola Virus Disease infected person is not contagious.

3. If an Ebola patient survives, how long is she/he contagious for?

A person affected by Ebola is contagious as long as the blood and body secretions still contain the virus. Before returning home, infected people MUST have their blood tested in the laboratory to ensure the virus is no longer in their body systems. Men who have recovered from the illness should NOT have sexual intercourse for at least seven days because they can still spread the virus through their semen. They should abstain for that period or use condoms if they are to have sexual intercourse.


4. Can Ebola be transmitted by saliva?

Yes. The Ebola Virus can be transmitted by saliva and other secretions such as stool, urine, semen, virginal secretions, mucous as well as blood. When these fluids get in contact with broken skin of other people, they can get the Ebola virus.


5. Can Ebola be transmitted by sweat?

Yes. Any body fluids including sweat have the Ebola virus and to contact with those fluids especially through broken skin or mucous will transmit the virus.


6. Can Ebola be transmitted by shaking hands?

Yes, shaking hands with confirmed Ebola patients transmits the diseases. This must be avoided and adequate protection must be used while touching these patients.


7. How should I greet people, if the hand shake is not recommended?

Hand shaking should be avoided as it is a risk during the outbreak or before a potential outbreak. You can greet people by waving to them or acknowledge by shaking your head. Washing your hands with soap and clean water regularly is also recommended.


8. What distance to keep away from people suspected of having Ebola?

There is no specific distance recommended. However, if you know any person suspected of Ebola, please report to the nearest health facility as soon as possible and listen to the advice from health workers. Please avoid any direct contact with the person and keep away from a suspected infected person.

Disease and Animal Transmission

1. Why am I told not to eat bush meats?

People are advised not to eat bush meats during an Ebola outbreak as current evidence suggests that those animals may be the sources of the virus. Monkeys, chimpanzees, bats or dead animals found in the bush MUST be avoided during and before the outbreak. People can resume eating the meat once the government declares the outbreak to be over.


2. If a bush meat is well cooked, is it safe?

Yes, well prepared/cooked bush meats are safe. However, the problem is hunting, slaughtering and preparing these meats. That is how the transmission occurs and why people are advised to avoid these meats before and during an Ebola outbreak.


3. Can I eat smoked bush meats?

Well prepared/cooked/smoke bush meats can be eaten. But preparing/cooking/smoking these meats is a dangerous process. Please avoid the bush meats until the government declares the outbreak to be over.


4. Do I need to avoid all bush meats or just monkey and bat meats?

During an Ebola outbreak, please avoid all bush meats because it is potentially dangerous. Monkey, chimpanzees and bats must be particularly avoided.


5. Can Ebola be in chicken, goat or cow?

No. There is no evidence linked between Ebola and domestic animals such as chicken, goats and cows. It is only bush or forest meats that is suspected to be dangerous.

6. Should I stop eating fish too?

No, fish is very safe. Please continue eating.


7. Can I get Ebola through contact of urine and droppings of bats?

Yes, you can get Ebola if you are in contact with urine and/or dropping of infected bats. Please ensure that you avoid getting into contact with bats before and during an Ebola outbreak.


8. In rainy season, bats feed on mangoes. Do I stop eating mangoes?

No, you can continue eating mangos but they properly need to be washed before eating. However, you should avoid the mangoes which bat has bitten (bat mot).



1. Where do I go for treatment if I am suspicious of having Ebola?

You must go immediately to the nearest health facility for assessment and treatment.


2. Where can I buy medicine to treat Ebola?

There is no medicine or vaccine for Ebola for sale anywhere. Please go to the nearest health facility for early management if you suspect yourself to have Ebola infection.



1. Can mix of ginger, honey, garlic, onion and vinegar cure Ebola?

No, it is not true. There is no cure for Ebola Virus Disease. You must go to the nearest health facility for proper management/treatment if you or someone suspect yourself to have Ebola infection.


2. Is it true that drinking alcohol prevents Ebola virus transmission?

No, it is not true. Alcohol does not prevent Ebola. In fact, excessive consumption of alcohol is harmful to your body.


3. Is it true that Ebola is a curse?

No, it is not true. Ebola is a viral disease transmitted to humans from wild animals.



1. Can I call a hotline to report suspicious cases?

Yes, call toll free 117 to report any suspicious case and to get more information on Ebola Virus Disease. You should also report any suspicious cases to the nearest health facility as soon as possible.


2. How effective is the surveillance system in Sierra Leone?

The surveillance system in Sierra Leone is very effective and is able to detect and pick any viral fever occurring anywhere in the country promptly. The country also has capacity to test for Ebola virus at Kenema Lassa Fever Laboratory within 2 hours of receipt of samples.


Government Responses

1. Is government screening people entering Sierra Leone?

The MoHS is working on distributing assessment questionnaires to all travelers entering Sierra Leone. Port Health Officers at the points of official entrance in Sierra Leone have been trained on Ebola and are able to identify any suspicious cases on arrival at their ports.


2. What are government plans to inform rural areas on Ebola?

The government has conducted sensitization meetings with religious leaders, school authorities and CSO partners to provide information to the rural population. Communication material such as poster and factsheet are also developed and disseminated nationwide. TV, Radios and SMS are also used to reach rural communities. The GoSL is supported in these activities by international and national health organizations.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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