Ebola: The Facts for Parents, Head Start, and Child Care Programs

The recent reports of patients with Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola) in the United States is understandably concerning. Head Start and child care programs are encouraged to use this fact sheet to answer questions staff and families may have about Ebola. Use the resources below to support worried staff, children, and families.

baby and mother with doctor

What Is Ebola?

Ebola is a viral disease that causes serious illness. Its symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure, although eight to 10 days is most common.

How Is Ebola Spread?

Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola. This includes but is not limited to: feces, saliva, sweat, urine, vomit, breast milk, and semen. The virus in blood and body fluids can enter another person through broken skin or through the eyes, nose, or mouth. It is important to know that:

  • Ebola virus is not spread through air or by water, or by any food grown or approved for consumption in the U.S.
  • A person who has been exposed to Ebola but does not have symptoms is not infectious.

Who Is At Risk?

Health workers and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at highest risk for infection. They may come in contact with the blood or body fluids of sick patients, for example, by changing sheets after an ill person has vomited.

Support Is Available

Program staff and parents may feel stress or worry associated with Ebola, especially if there are cases identified in their communities. Immediate crisis counseling to people concerned about Ebola virus reports is available through the Disaster Distress Helpline toll-free at 1-800-985-5990 (TTY: 1-800-846-8517). Find more tips for Coping with Stress during Infectious Disease Outbreaks.

Additional Information

For more information about Ebola, parents and program staff are encouraged to review the following resources:

Ebola: The Facts for Parents, Head Start, and Child Care Programs. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2014. English.

Last Reviewed: November 2014

Last Updated: August 26, 2015