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5 Diseases That Don’t Spread the Way We Used to Think


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Ebola
After surviving ebola, this man volunteered to be part of a study to track the long-term health effects of the disease. © ZOOM DOSSO/AFP/Getty Images
After surviving ebola, this man volunteered to be part of a study to track the long-term health effects of the disease. © ZOOM DOSSO/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization recommends three basic ways to avoid the spread of Ebola: Don't touch sick people; avoid bodily fluids and dead bodies; and be vigilant about hand washing. If you're wondering where the hazmat suit falls into that equation, it doesn't. The Ebola virus is not airborne, it's not waterborne and it doesn't spread through casual contact with another person. That means that most of us not living in developing countries or caring for infected patients on the front line of an Ebola epidemic are at little to no risk of becoming infected as we go about our day-to-day lives.

Ebola, caused by a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus, was first identified in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo [source: McLysaght]. Four of the five known Ebolavirus strains infect humans: Bundibugyo virus, Ebola virus, Sudan virus and Taï Forest virus. The fifth strain, Reston ebolavirus, is known to cause infections in monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees.

There is also no evidence to suggest the Ebola viruses are genetically modified organisms, a bioweapon, or a government plot devised to wipe out a certain race or group of people. Some have voiced suspicions that health care workers at local hospitals, including local physicians and teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (aka Doctors Without Borders), are responsible for the introduction and spread of the virus.

Additionally, there is no evidence Ebola can be prevented or cured by consuming coffee, condensed milk or raw onions. Kissing the corpse of an infected person will not grant you immunity; in fact, that's a good way to become infected.

Because antibiotics work against bacteria and Ebola is a viral infection, antibiotics aren't useful against the disease. As of mid-2015, many Ebola vaccines are being researched and tested, but there is no official vaccine or cure for Ebola.


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