Frequently asked questions about Ebola

What is Ebola?

Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrahagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the four Ebola virus streams that can cause disease in humans. Ebola viruses, first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are found in several African countries.

How does Ebola spread?

Person-to-person transmission of the Ebola virus is spread through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, objects that have been contaminated with the virus or infected fruit bats or primates. Symptom-free people do not transmit the virus. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or food. There is no evidence that Ebola is transmitted by mosquitos or other insects. The virus is spread mainly through coughing and/or sneezing. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Who is at risk for contracting Ebola?

Anyone who has close contact with an infected person may become infected; however, healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with the blood or body fluids of sick patients. The virus also can be spread through contact with objects (like clothes, bedding, needles, syringes/sharps or medical equipment) that have been contaminated with the virus or with infected animals.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?

Ebola symptoms appear similar to those of regular human influenza and include fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal (stomach) pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is eight to 10 days.

What should I do if I get sick?

We ask that students call the Decker Student Health Services Center at 607-777-2221 and report if they develop a fever or are concerned whether they are ill with Ebola. This initial remote access to care connects callers to a healthcare worker who will provide up-to-date information about Ebola and guide students on isolation and next steps for transport to an appropriate healthcare facility should Ebola be confirmed.

Non-students should contact their primary care physician for guidance and healthcare support.

What should I do to protect myself from Ebola?

  • Obey all travel restrictions and avoid travel to affected countries.
  • Practice careful hygiene including hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle any items that may have come in contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids, including clothes, bedding, needles and medical equipment.
  • If you have been in an outbreak area or in contact with an infected individual, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.

When should I call for emergency treatment and/or transportation?

While it is highly unlikely that an Ebola case will occur at Binghamton University, individuals who become ill and suspect Ebola infection should seek emergency medical care by first calling ahead to the healthcare facility where they are seeking care.
Anyone suffering from symptoms that require emergency medical attention should call 911 on a campus land line or 607-777-3333 if using a cell phone for Harpur's Ferry Student Volunteer Ambulance Service response.

What treatment is available for individuals who become ill with Ebola?

Symptoms are treated as they appear and include basic interventions such as providing intravenous fluids, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure and treating infections if they occur. Experimental vaccines and treatments are under development, but have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness. Recovery depends on good, supportive care and the individual patient's immune response.

What should I do if I become ill when the Decker Student Health Services Center is closed?

The Decker Student Health Services Center is open from 8 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and your health fee covers your care on campus. If you become ill during the night or on a weekend and live on campus, call 911 on a campus land line or 607-777-2222 if using a cell phone for Harpur's Ferry Student Volunteer Ambulance Service response.

How do I avoid spreading the disease?

Self-isolate away from other people and immediately contact the Decker Student Health Services Center at 607-777-2221, University Police at 607-777-2222 or Harpur's Ferry at 607-777-2222.

What should I do if someone I live with has confirmed Ebola?

You will require isolation and monitoring for the 21 days following your most recent contact with the Ebola-infected individual. Disruption of this magnitude will be difficult to navigate, but the University will work with individuals who must be isolated on a case-by-case basis to minimize disruption. The local and state departments of health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also be involved in assisting with evaluations, recommendations and support.

However, you should also follow the same precautions you would to avoid the common seasonal flu:

  • Avoid close contact such as kissing and do not share towels, glasses or toothbrushes.
  • Avoid having visitors.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
  • Consider using a face mask or an N95 respirator. These can be purchased at a pharmacy or hardware-type store. Your hands may become contaminated as you touch the outside of the mask. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face and nose.
  • Wash all dirty dishes and eating utensils in a dishwasher or by hand with warm water and soap.

How can I protect myself and others from Ebola?

Here are the best ways to avoid getting or spreading Ebola (or seasonal influenza):

  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not into your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of Ebola. A fever is a temperature taken with a thermometer that is equal to or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. Look for possible signs of fever: if the person feels very warm, has a flushed appearance, or is sweating or shivering.
  • Stay home if you have flu or flu-like illness for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Don't go to class or work.
  • Talk with your healthcare providers about whether you should be vaccinated for seasonal flu.

Should I be vaccinated for seasonal influenza?

Everyone 6 months and older is recommended for annual flu vaccination with rare exception. There are flu shots approved for people of all ages, including pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have an allergy to eggs or other ingredients in the vaccine, if you have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome or if you are not feeling well.

There is also a nasal spray vaccine approved for use in people age 2 through 49.

The Decker Student Health Services Center offers free flu vaccine to students. Vaccine will be administered via appointments made through on-line scheduling and through outreach flu clinics which will be advertised to the student population.

How should students handle classes if they become ill with the flu?

Faculty have been asked to encourage students to refrain from attending class if they exhibit symptoms of the flu – including fever, cough, sore throat and muscle or body aches – and to remain in their room or home for 24 hours after the fever breaks. Faculty have also been asked to make accommodations for those students who miss class due to illness and who provide a note from a doctor confirming their illness upon their return to class.

How should faculty handle classes if they become ill with the flu?

If a faculty member develops flu-like symptoms, they are encouraged to refrain from attending classes, labs or any University functions until they are no longer contagious. Faculty should notify their department or school about the situation and explain how students will be communicated with.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying home for 24 hours after the fever breaks. With alternative plans, faculty will still be able to fulfill their responsibilities to their students.

Information about any spread of the flu will be enhanced if faculty notify their dean’s office of any increase in student absences in class. The same is true if there is an increase in the number of students contacting faculty to state that they are ill.

What are the University and Decker Student Health Services Center doing about Ebola?

The University has activated its Incident Management Team (IMT), which is implementing its Communicable Disease plan. David Hubeny, the University's director of emergency management, is a member of the SUNY Ebola Task Force and serves as Binghamton's point person for Ebola. He continues to work with the IMT and the Decker Student Health Services Center, in addition to the following:

  • Work closely with the county and state health departments monitoring the Ebola outbreak and the various updates and following the guidelines provided by SUNY, the New York State Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Stock appropriate medical and support supplies
  • Refine policies and procedures for sanitizing rooms, isolating people who have had contact with suspect Ebola cases
  • Institute an educational campaign to encourage good health practices
  • Develop public health plans for large events on campus

For updates and additional information on Ebola, visit the University Ebola update page.

Last Updated: 8/11/16