It’s a little scary reading the latest headlines on Ebola. (As if we don’t have enough to worry about already!) We don’t want to cause or contribute to any Ebola panic because according to most sources, we should not be overly concerned, but we do think it’s always important to be aware. So, we broke down the facts and the latest news as best we could.
First, what IS Ebola? According to the Oxford Dictionary, Ebola is:
An infectious and generally fatal disease marked by fever and severe internal bleeding, spread through contact with infected body fluids by a filovirus (Ebola virus), whose normal host species is unknown.
It was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), near which the disease was first observed.
According to the World Health Organization’s [WHO] website:
Ebola was first discovered in 1976 with two simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope, and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.
Ebola is a horrific disease, yes, but the good news is that it is very unlikely you will contract it.
After the first patient was diagnosed with Ebola in the US, Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), made a statement stressing that “…there’s all the difference in the world between the US and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading. The United States has a strong health-care system and public-health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities.” He also said that, even though there could be additional cases associated with the first patient who was diagnosed in the United States (and at this point there are), he has “no doubt that we will contain this.”
Some facts about Ebola and the outbreak:
- Ebola is only spread from human to human via contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
- It is only contagious when an infected person starts experiencing symptoms.
- The odds of someone catching Ebola from someone else’s cough or sneeze, as with something like the flu or common cold, are supposedly extremely low. (However, news that it could be transmitted through the air is emerging. Whether or not that is accurate is still in question.)
- Those who are at highest risk of contracting Ebola are people who are caring directly for Ebola patients; those preparing body’s of Ebola victims for burial; and people who are traveling from West African countries where the virus is most concentrated, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Senegal.
- Travel warnings have been issued for the aforementioned countries, and several airports around the world are now screening passengers for symptoms.
- Early symptoms of Ebola include headache, fever, stomach pains, muscle pain, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- There is an incubation period — or a time span between infection and the appearance of symptoms — which can last anywhere from 2 to 21 days.
- Although Ebola is often fatal, the average fatality rate is 50%, according to the WHO.
- There is currently no vaccine to prevent Ebola, but studies are being conducted.
- Some Ebola patients have been treated with experimental drugs, but there are no approved drugs on the market at this time.
For much more in-depth information on the Ebola outbreak, here are some article suggestions:
- Ebola Facts: How Many Ebola Patients Are Being Treated Outside of West Africa? (nytimes.com)
- Watch How Ebola Has Spread Across The World (time.com)
- New Ebola Vaccine Study has Begun in Maryland (usatoday.com)
- Questions and Answers on Experimental Treatments and Vaccines for Ebola (cdc.gov)
- WHO: New Ebola Cases Could Be Up To 10,000 Per Week In 2 Months (huffingtonpost.com)
- As Ebola Fears Spread, Ohio and Texas Close Some Schools (nytimes.com)
- CDC Admits Ebola Could be Airborne (theantimedia.org)
- No, Seriously, How Contagious is Ebola? (npr.org)
- Ebola: The Executive Summary, 10/16 (eboladeeply.org)
- Ebola: The Good News and The Bad News (wellness.com)
- 10 Essential Facts About Ebola (everydayhealth.com)
- CDC and Texas Health Department Confirm First Ebola Case Diagnosed in the U.S. (cdc.gov)
- Ebola Virus Disease (who.int)
At this point it seems safe to say that the average American does not have to worry much about becoming infected with Ebola, but it is always good to be informed. We hope this was helpful and perhaps calmed some fears.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to Ebola, you can call CDC-Info at 800-CDC-INFO for more information.
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