How you can (and cannot) get Ebola

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DENVER -- Thomas Eric Duncan traveled from Liberia to Texas, before testing positive for Ebola on September 28.

The CDC says the virus is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids.   Patients are not contagious unless they show symptoms (like fever and diarrhea).  Those fluids include blood, urine, saliva and vomit.

Dr. Connie Price, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Denver Health says Ebola doesn’t spread like respiratory illnesses, which can travel through the air.

“It's not something that you're going to get by walking in the same room being coughed on,” Price said.

Areas can be contaminated by bodily fluids, but doctors say here in the United States we shouldn’t fear public places.

“Going to the mall is not going to be a mode of transmission,” Price said.

Many areas in Africa that saw the fastest spread of the virus didn't have access to proper running water and cleaning products.  That's not the case in this country, where there is  plenty of access to hospital grade disinfectants, like household bleach, that kill the virus.

While out in public, protect yourself by washing your hands before touching your face, especially your mouth nose or eyes.

The CDC says like other viruses, the Ebola strain can live on  surfaces like door handles for  several hours, several days if the fluids that contain it do not dry, but practicing healthy habits offers protection.

We'll continue to answer questions about Ebola online and on TV, but here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Will Duncan receive an experimental drug?

Maybe. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday the Dallas hospital was discussing all treatment options with the patient and his family. There is no approved drug or vaccine for Ebola.

The experimental drug given to Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the first Ebola patients flown to the United States, is called ZMapp. The company that produces ZMapp has said it is out of doses, though it is working to create more.

Dr. Rick Sacra, the American doctor treated for Ebola in Nebraska, was given another experimental drug called TKM-Ebola. There are reportedly still doses of this drug available.

Are the people who were on his flights at risk?

No. The Ebola virus only spreads when someone is exhibiting symptoms. This patient arrived in the United States on September 20, according to the CDC, and didn't get sick until September 24. So he wasn't contagious on the flight.

He was put in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 28 and will not be released until he is free of the virus.

But how can they be sure he wasn't sick earlier?

That's a fair question. The first sign of Ebola is generally a high fever. And everyone leaving Liberia has their temperature checked before they're allowed to board a plane.

Plus, health experts have said that anyone who is sick enough to be contagious likely doesn't feel well enough to travel in the first place.

When do Ebola symptoms start, and what are they?

Ebola symptoms typically appear eight to 10 days after infection. But they can start anywhere from two to 21 days after infection.

Early symptoms include a high fever, muscle aches and chills -- similar to early symptoms of the flu. The virus then progresses to severe vomiting and diarrhea, with a possible rash and/or painful cough. Patients near death sometimes bleed from their eyes, mouth or other orifices as they begin to bleed internally.

Why aren't U.S. borders being closed to travelers from this region?

The easiest way to prevent an Ebola outbreak in the United States is to prevent travelers from the region from flying here in the first place, right?

But think about all the health care workers, volunteers and military personnel who are selflessly going to West Africa to offer assistance. Should they be forced to stay overseas until the outbreak is over? Would as many go if they knew they wouldn't be allowed back?

"The international community is really asking us to continue operations," said Gert Sciot, spokesman for Brussels Airlines. "We are a vital link for logistics and all kinds of material that need to go into (Liberia)."

The CDC has warned against any nonessential travel to the region. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have been trained to spot common Ebola symptoms. Temperatures are not checked on arrival, but if a passenger arrives who is exhibiting symptoms, major international airports have the ability to quarantine him or her immediately.

How long can Ebola live on a surface?

In one CDC study, the Ebola virus lived in an perfectly controlled environment for up to six days. But the environment at an airport, for example, or school is not perfectly suited to support viruses. And Ebola is more easily deactivated than most, experts say.

What kills the virus?

Health care workers -- and CNN's reporters -- in West Africa rely on bleach. But the CDC says any hospital disinfectant will work on a nonporous surface.

I'm traveling to Dallas soon. Should I be worried?

Not really. The CDC and local health departments are working to find anyone Duncan came in contact with while he was contagious, and monitor them for symptoms. If any of them become contagious they will be placed in isolation as well. But just to be safe, follow the basic rules of infection prevention: avoid people who are sick and wash your hands frequently.

CNN contributed to this report.



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