• View as Slideshow10 Ebola Myths, Discounted

    The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa and its more recent appearance here in the U.S. have spawned an abundance of myths about how the virus is spread and treated. (Among the crazier ones we’ve heard: If you kiss someone who’s died of Ebola you’re immune to it; special water can kill the virus; and the outbreak is a presidential plot to infect Americans.) Here is the straight scoop on 10 myths about Ebola virus.

  • plane flying against blue skies

    Myth: It's easy to catch on a plane

    Fact: It’s possible but highly unlikely. The virus is transmitted through the body fluids of infected people—blood, urine, feces, vomit, and, to a lesser extent, saliva. If a person with Ebola were next to you on a plane and sneezed on you, and one of those airborne particles landed in your eyes, mouth, or on broken skin, it could cause infection. But this scenario is very unlikely. People with Ebola aren’t contagious until they become symptomatic, and someone with serious symptoms of Ebola would probably be too sick to be on a plane. 

  • surgery team

    Myth: U.S. hospitals aren’t well-prepared

    Fact: Many U.S. hospitals are equipped to handle Ebola, meaning they have the necessary protective clothing on hand—including masks, gloves, gowns, and eye protection—to keep hospital workers from getting infected when they treat Ebola patients. The problem isn’t the lack of equipment, but the fact that few hospitals have provided adequate training to their employees on how to properly use it. Hospitals are acting quickly to change that, though, which should reduce the risk of infection for their workers.

  • mosquito on human skin

    Myth: Ebola can be spread via a mosquito bite

    Fact: Not so, although there are other reasons to avoid mosquitos, like the risk of West Nile virus. Like HIV, Ebola can only be transmitted between mammals.

  • boy drinking from public fountain

    Myth: You can get Ebola from drinking water

    Fact: Ebola isn’t a water-borne disease. If there were significant fecal or blood contamination of the water supply (which is thankfully not a concern in the U.S.), in theory it would be possible, though still highly unlikely. 

  • two businesspeople shaking hands

    Myth: You can get Ebola just by touching someone

    Fact: No. You would have to touch their bodily secretions, feces, or blood and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose. Shaking hands won’t do it. 

  • bats hanging on trees

    Myth: Ebola can be transmitted only between humans

    Fact: The initial cause of human outbreaks is actually other mammals. Bats carry the virus, but it doesn’t make them sick. Many primates can become infected from bats; they get sick like humans. Humans can get infected from bats or other primates (by touching them, eating their meat, or coming into contact with their blood). Sick humans then transmit the virus to other humans by contact with their blood, feces, or other bodily fluids. It’s not surprising, then, that most human transmission is from patient to health care worker.  

  • racing ambulance

    Myth: Ebola is a death sentence

    Fact: No, but mortality rates are high. There are three Ebola viruses that can infect humans, and their mortality rates differ. Ebola Zaire, the strain causing the current outbreak, has a mortality rate of about 30 percent if there’s optimal medical care. The death rate from the current outbreak has been higher than that, about 50 percent, because of limited access to proper medical care in the West African countries where the outbreak is centered.

  • medical worker washing hands

    Myth: The U.S. is at high risk for an Ebola epidemic

    Fact: Most unlikely. We know how the virus is transmitted, many hospitals will be capable of caring for Ebola patients, and we have the ability to identify exposed people and ensure that they take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Remember, family members of the only person who died from Ebola in the U.S. lived with him before and while he was ill. They were removed from quarantine after 21 days without any evidence of infection.

  • capsules on a laptop

    Myth: You can buy effective treatments for Ebola online

    Fact: You can’t buy effective treatment anywhere. Antibody therapy (serum taken from people who have survived Ebola) is believed to be the most effective treatment, and it’s available only in hospitals.

  • surgeons with patient

    Myth: The U.S. shouldn't get involved in the African Ebola crisis

    Fact: We and other wealthy nations have a moral obligation to help people in West Africa. Plus, for our own sake we need to help control the epidemic where it’s centered to prevent its spread to many other countries. To date the U.S. has provided money, infrastructure assistance, on-the-ground expertise from the CDC, and military assistance. Other countries, including Cuba, have sent physicians.