All your questions about the Ebola virus. Answered.

Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.

Four new suspected Ebola patients, including a feverish passenger removed from a plane in Madrid, have been reported by Spanish authorities.

The reports follow news earlier this week that a second Texas health care worker – Amber Jay Vinson , a 29-year-old nurse from Ohio –  tested positive for the deadly virus after treating a West African man who ultimately died from the disease.

Amber Jay Vinson, who tested positive for Ebola earlier this week.

Now, officials are trying to track down and interview all 132 people on the flight Vinson took just before her diagnosis — and concerns are mounting about the spread of the virus across the globe.

If you, like the rest of the world, have a bunch of burning questions about this frightening disease, take five minutes to read through Mamamia’s Ebola cheat sheet.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?

“The disease caused by the virus is dramatic and awful,” epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Allen Cheng writes for The Conversation.

While it starts with flu-like symptoms including a sore throat, fever and muscle pain, within a few days nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea develop.

“While all this is happening, the virus is also attacking the internal organs, particularly the liver and kidneys. As these organs start to fail, the patient starts to bleed and eventually succumbs to dehydration and blood loss,” Dr Cheng says.

How fatal is Ebola?

According to The Conversation, while the death rate from the virus was previously said to be 49 per cent, the World Health Organisation has recently calculated the fatality rate among confirmed cases to be above 70 per cent overall and 64 per cent for those who were hospitalised.

How is it transmitted?

The Conversation reports that “the prevailing view is that infections can only be transmitted by one of three mutually exclusive routes – contact, droplet or airborne.”

A woman crawls towards the body of her sister as Ebola burial team members take her sister Mekie Nagbe, 28, for cremation on October 10, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
A woman crawls towards the body of her sister as Ebola burial team members take her sister Mekie Nagbe, 28, for cremation on October 10, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

While health authorities such as the CDC have conveyed certainty that Ebola cannot be transmitted by any means other than direct contact, some scientists believe it could also be spread by aerosols – and studies in monkeys and pigs have demonstrated non-contact transmission of Ebola.

Despite these concerns, director of the lab based at Melbourne University’s Peter Doherty Institute, Dr Mike Catton, told Fairfax Media that viruses “like HIV or Ebola are not very transmissible”.

“You need to pretty much … lead them by the hand to where they need to be,” he said. “(This is) completely in contrast to something like flu, which is an epidemic virus and it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle when it comes to your country.”

How bad is this outbreak going to get?

According to News Corp, the UN has warned the world has just 60 days to get Ebola under control, or face an “unprecedented situation for which we don’t have a plan”.

The UN’s deputy Ebola co-ordinator, Anthony Banbury, explained at a meeting of the UN Security Council that on WHO’s advice, “within 60 days we must ensure 70 per cent of infected people are in a care facility and 70 per cent of burials are done without causing further infection”.

The WHO says West Africa could see up to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week within two months if the outbreak is not adequately contained, and The Conversation reports that latest worst-case modelling predicts up to 1.4 million people might become infected in this outbreak.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where health care worker Nina Pham, is being treated for the Ebola virus is seen on October 14, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Pham contracted the virus when she provided treatment to Thomas Eric Duncan, the West African man who later died from the disease. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images)

Is Australia prepared for Ebola?

The WHO this week warned Australia needed to strengthen its defences, and the Australian Medical Association is also concerned hospitals in the developed world are not equipped to cope with Ebola, the ABC reports.

President of the AMA Professor Brian Owler, told the ABC he had “concerns about the preparedness of Australia”.

“I know after speaking to people at various hospitals that they are doing the drills,” he said. “They are using the appropriate equipment. They are looking at waste management and all the other things that go along with that. But I think in light of all the the recent events in Texas we need to review Australia’s preparedness.”

But Dr Catton of the Peter Doherty Institute told Fairfax Media his team was prepared to respond to potential cases “24/7”.

But he emphasised the likelihood of an uncontrolled outbreak here was so small as to be “vanishing into invisibility”.

“There’s not going to be bodies in the streets in Melbourne,” he said. “We might get a case, maybe two … but this is a problem in developing countries. It’s probably going to take some time to get it under control there, but it’s not something that is going to spread in developed countries.”

Are you concerned about Ebola coming to Australia? 

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