Common Ebola Myths

We want to help set the record straight
on five common myths about the Ebola virus disease.

Myth 1: Ebola is highly contagious

THE TRUTH: Compared with other diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox and polio, Ebola is not particularly infectious. Infection requires a lot of contact with the virus, such as coming in contact with bodily fluids (vomit, saliva, urine, sweat, etc.) This is why many of the victims of the disease in West Africa are health care workers without personal protective equipment or family members caring for a sick relative. Health care workers often get sick in the early stages of an outbreak, while dealing with patients who are highly infectious without adequate protection. Precautionary measures like face masks, gloves, protective gowns and isolation units can easily prevent transmission.

Myth 2: Talking to people from Africa could give me Ebola

THE TRUTH: You cannot catch Ebola by talking to people, walking in the street, or shopping in the market. Generally the virus doesn’t spread through casual social contact such as having a conversation or passing someone in the street. Also, if a person has not travelled to the affected countries recently or has not been in contact with a person who is sick or who has died of Ebola, there is no chance the person will contract the virus. There is no need to be afraid of healthy people, regardless of where they come from.

Myth 3: There is no way to survive once you get the disease

THE TRUTHWhile it is true that a high percentage of infected people in Africa have died (from 50-90 per cent), many there lack access to health-care services and facilities. Prompt, quality care of Ebola patients improves the odds of survival. There is neither a vaccine nor a specific treatment for Ebola virus disease. The earlier people go to hospital and get appropriate care the higher their chance of survival. People who are severely ill with the disease require intensive medical support.

Myth 4: Travel bans would keep Ebola from spreading

THE TRUTH: In the past, some nations have banned flights from other countries in hopes of blocking the entry of viruses, including SARS and H1N1 (swine flu). None of the bans were effective, and the viruses spread regardless of government measures took to keep them out. With travel restrictions can even create more problems. For aid workers, it is already difficult to go to affected countries. Stigma makes it even harder for those who want to help. Without human resources, we cannot run our operations; and if we cannot run our operations, we cannot stop Ebola. Closing all borders can also make it more difficult to raise enough funds to run the operations.

Myth 5: Bringing Ebola patients to western countries puts people at risk

THE TRUTH: The spread of Ebola is possible not because it's a potent virus strain, but because of the healthcare disparity in West Africa. In Western hospitals, gloves, gowns, masks, proper hygiene standards, protocols and isolation units are enough to protect healthcare workers from contracting Ebola from their patients. If we follow the existing protocols while getting patients to Western countries, the chances of Ebola spreading are negligible.

To learn more facts about Ebola, see our Ebola Facts Infographic