Ebola Virus

Photo credit: http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21610250-many-sierra-leoneans-refuse-take-advice-medical-experts-ebola-death

Photo credit: The Economist

Ebola virus is a prominent current event story.  While it certainly is a problem, we should be sure to keep this in perspective.  To date this year, there are approximately 6500 cases and 3000 deaths reported in West Africa.  There is only 1 confirmed case in the U.S., a West African man who traveled to Texas by way of Brussels, Belgium.  Known contacts have been isolated, and so far there has been no evidence of spread in this country.

Ebola virus has been identified as a cause of human infections since 1976.  It is named for the Ebola River in South Sudan.  It is very infectious- studies suggest a single virus may cause fatal infection.  However, it is at most moderately contagious.  Humans can only be infected by contact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals (and only if ingested through mucus membranes like eye, nose, mouth).  It cannot be spread before one is contagious or after one recovers.  It is not airborne like influenza or measles. 

Typical symptoms are similar to many viral infections: fever, headache, body ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash.  There is no cure or vaccine; treatment is directed at symptom relief and control of fluid losses.

According to Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Ebola can be scary.  But there is all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading.  The U.S. has a strong healthcare system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten communities.”

Management of this problem consists of isolating known cases, identifying possible exposed contacts, and educating the public.  Additional steps being taken by the CDC include:

  • Enhancing surveillance in laboratory testing capacity
  • Developing guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations
  • Provide guidance for flight crews, EMS units at airports, custom and border protection officers about reporting ill travelers to CDC
  • Disseminating up-to-date information to the general public

So what to do? Be cautious, but don’t panic. Wash hands frequently and report significant symptoms to your doctor, but don’t think Ebola unless you believe you were in contact with someone traveling from West Africa.

And get your flu shot: the flu kills approximately 41,000 Americans annually.

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4 thoughts on “Ebola Virus

    • Hello, “Hangzhou Harry”–my old CU suitemate. Measles is one of the leading causes of death in the 3rd world to this day. So you are absolutely right that this is something that we should be following and I encourage everyone to review the excellent link Harry has posted. The issue of immunization refusal is most important and I do intend to address it in a future post. Frankly its kind of contoversial and can engender some pretty strong emotions so I will defer a bit until I have time to devote to it with care and the best information I can collect. Sorry, Harry, for the later response–I’m just trying to figure this thing out from a tech standpoint and just found this part of the web site.

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  1. Great post! The number of Americans that die from the flu each year helps put things in perspective. I look forward to reading your blog, especially in regards to your thoughts on the E68 virus.

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    • Elka–thanks so much for following and sorry for late response. I am just trying to figure this thing out from a tech side–ask Allix, not my long suit. I hope you enjoyed the subsequent EV-D68 post. As I inidicated, as this is a late summer–early fall problem it is something that we can fear quite a bit less now that we are getting to winter.

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