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The Ebola Virus

There is heightened concern, even here in Paris Texas, over the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, especially since two infected Americans were transferred to an American hospital in Atlanta to be treated.

"Ebola virus em" by CDC/ Dr. Frederick A. Murphy -- a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention photo
“Ebola virus em” by CDC/ Dr. Frederick A. Murphy — a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention photo

CDC (Center for Disease Control) Director Dr. Tom Frieden acknowledges that the many Americans are terrified about bringing Dr. Kent Brantly and hygienist Nancy Writebol back to the U.S. to be treated.

But the CDC and Emory University Hospital, where the two are in isolation in a special containment unit, are emphatic that there is no risk to Americans.

It is important to know that while Ebola is highly lethal it is not highly contagious.

The reason the risk is so small for the American public is that individuals who have the Ebola virus are only contagious when they begin to show symptoms of the disease. And, it can only be transferred via bodily fluids such as blood, vomit and urine.

“The fact is that when patients are exposed to Ebola but not sick, they cannot infect others. It doesn’t spread casually and it doesn’t spread from someone who’s not sick,” Dr. Frieden stated. ”

Ebola experts and the CDC both say it is highly unlikely there would be an outbreak in the U.S., even though Frieden said it’s possible there could be additional cases.  The disease spreads so quickly in Africa due to lack of  good infection control (such as hand washing and sterile equipment) and close contact while burying the bodies of Ebola victims.

Since 1976 there has been 10 epidemics of the Ebola virus, occuring primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.  The latest outbreak has killed 729 people since March.

The Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Ebola virus outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%.

However, again, it is important to note that the Ebola virus is not transmitted through casual contact nor is there airborne transmission. Ebola spreads in humans from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is implementing a plan to stop the virus from entering the U.S.  Those arriving by plane from the affected areas of Africa (Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gunea) are having their temperatures scanned. Those with fever are being quarantined. The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is 2 to 21 days.  The CDC has “quarantine stations” at all major U.S. airports.

The symptoms of Ebola include:  sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

Currently there is not a vaccine nor any specific treatment available for those infected. But patients are often dehydrated and that can be treated and new drug therapies are being tested and researched.

As with any virus, the CDC always recommends washing your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap or, if that is not available, a hand sanitiser can be used.  And use common sense when encountering anyone who appears to be sick, in Paris, Texas it’s most likely the flu – but you don’t want that either.

From one mom to another,

Jenny Wilson

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