Ebola Misconceptions

Sarah Zeh and Mary-Catherine Crutchfield

There are numerous misconceptions about the Ebola virus that cause people anxiety. It is important to realize that these are simply myths or rumors about the virus and have very little (if any) truth to them.

Image retrieved from Fuse via Getty Images


  • Misconception: Ebola is transported through the air or through tap water.
    • Truth: We shouldn’t be as worried about Ebola as we are currently because it can only be spread through bodily fluids, it is not at all an airborne virus.
  • Misconception: Ebola can be contracted via casual contact.
    • Truth: Recently, the Center for Disease Control has stated that “casual contact” (defined by the CDC as being within approximately 3 feet or within the room or care area for a prolonged period of time while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment [or] having direct brief contact (e.g., shaking hands) with an EVD case while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment) is very low risk exposure.
Image retrieved from World Health Organization
  • Misconception: Symptoms will be noticeable right away.
    • Ebola is not contagious until the patient develops a fever. It can take anywhere from 2 to 21 days to develop the symptoms that ebola has to offer. These symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, internal and external bleeding, oozing gums, bloody stool, and impairment of the kidneys and liver.
  • Misconception: A person no longer affected by Ebola can still transmit the disease
    • Only a person exhibiting the symptoms of ebola (e.g. severe headache, unexplained hemorrhaging, fever over 101.5, etc.) can transmit the disease. Only when the person is exhibiting the symptoms are they infectious.
Image retrieved from World Health Organization
  • Misconception: Antibiotics don’t kill the virus so there is no cure.
    • It is very true that antibiotics will do nothing in treating the virus. Antibiotics are used when treating bacterial diseases. The clinical reason antibiotics will not work on viruses is because bacterial cells are so different from human cells that the antibiotics will be able to attack the cells without harming any of the human cells. Viruses need a host cell in order to survive, so using antibiotics to attack a virus will ultimately destroy good human cells.
    • Now, even though there are no antibiotics to cure the virus, this does not mean that a cure for the virus does not exist.
Image Retrieved from World Health Organization

Helpful Resources

  • Ebola virus disease. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  • Almendrala, A. (2014, August 6). The Most Destructive Myths About Ebola Virus, Debunked. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  • Case Definition for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). (2014, September 5). Retrieved October 20, 2014.

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