Calling it "hard to catch," Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday said the transmission of Ebola is "similar" to the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Ebola is transmitted through contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a person showing symptoms, Patrick said, which include a fever of 101.5 or higher, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, severe headache, and unexplained bruising or bleeding.
"It's hard to catch and people should understand that," Patrick said during his monthly "Ask the Governor" segment on WGBH radio. "It can't be spread easily."
Recalling unfounded public anxiety in the 1980s about HIV transmission through casual encounters, Patrick said that was based on a lack of understanding and that he hoped to ease any current anxieties.
Ebola has killed thousands in West Africa and authorities this week confirmed its first U.S. victim, in Texas. State and city officials gathered at Logan Airport Wednesday to outline readiness and response plans and protocols.
Also Wednesday, the government announced new screening efforts at five U.S. airports that receive more than 94 percent of West African travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. New York's JFK International Airport, which received nearly half of travelers from the three nations in the 12 months ending in July, will begin the screening on Saturday.
Patrick on Thursday called it a "great thing" that the international community has stepped up efforts in recent days to contain Ebola "at the source" in West Africa and called the likelihood of the deadly disease spreading to Massachusetts "very low."
State officials have been coordinating with health care, university, and emergency services networks since August, Patrick said, describing Massachusetts as "well prepared."
Patrick said the Centers for Disease Control on Wednesday certified the state's public health lab to perform diagnostic testing for Ebola.
"So we have a resource right here to promptly check out samples for people who are suspected," the governor said.
Washing hands regularly with soap and using alcohol-based sanitizers are good ideas, Patrick said.
People experiencing Ebola symptoms should call 911, Patrick said.
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