Clay Dubberly, ‘Doah Contributing Writer
October 22, 2014
The spread of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) has many Americans worried about the risk of a potential U.S. epidemic if not contained soon.
Ebola is a disease of humans and some mammals caused by an ebola virus. Humans can be infected with Ebola if they come in contact with contaminated objects from or bodily fluids of another who has contracted the disease.
The disease is considered highly infectious but not highly contagious. Highly infectious, because an infinitesimally small amount can cause one to contract the virus, but not highly contagious because so far transmission has been limited to physical contact with the bodily fluids of someone infected, rather than through airborne exposure.
However, some say that the virus may mutate and become airborne. Dr. Benjamin Carson, retired neurosurgeon and American author, argues, “…we must realize that some viruses are known to undergo mutations, which make them even more virulent. If the Ebola virus becomes even more pathologic, the ensuing panic and destruction of human life could go far beyond what is currently being acknowledged.”
The total number of Ebola cases exceeds 8000, with 4000 coming from West Africa. On Aug. 8, 2014, World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that by late January 2015 there will be 550,000 West African cases – but when you account for underreporting, the figures could rise to over 1.4 million.
In a recent study, the WHO Global Response team suggests that, “without drastic improvements in control measures, the numbers of cases of and deaths from [Ebola virus disease] are expected to continue increasing from hundreds to thousands per week in the coming months.”
Currently, six U.S. citizens have been infected with Ebola; one has died.
A second Ebola infection on U.S. ground occurred at a Texas hospital, urging President Obama to announce on Oct. 15, “We’re going to make sure that something like this is not repeated, and that we are monitoring, supervising, overseeing in a much more aggressive way exactly what’s taking place in Dallas, initially, and then making sure that the lessons learned are then transmitted to hospitals all across the country.”
Obama organized a rapid response team for the CDC to help hospitals without experience treating Ebola. He said, “I think what we’ve all learned over the last several weeks is that folks here in this country in a lot of non specialized hospitals and clinics don’t have that much experience dealing with these issues. So we’re going to have to push out that information as aggressively as possible.”
By the first week of December, WHO estimates there will be 5,000 to 10,000 new cases in West Africa weekly.
However, on Oct. 13, the CDC held a brief to reassure Americans there is “no significant risk” of an Ebola epidemic in the U.S.
Dr. Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, says the U.S. is better suited to handle an Ebola outbreak than lesser developed countries. He said health officials would be able to recognize a case and trace all points of contact to stop the spread of the infection.
“Epidemics of disease are often followed by epidemics of fear and epidemics of stigma,” Cetron said.
The CDC says the best way to avoid contracting Ebola is to stay out of West African countries and to practice careful hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water.
The disease is not contagious until symptoms appear. Symptoms include fever (greater than 101.5 degrees fahrenheit), muscle pain, severe headache, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.