Ebola, although deadly and highly infectious, is not easily transmitted and can be successfully treated, especially if caught early.
Nina Pham, the first person in the U.S. to be infected with the Ebola virus (she contracted the disease while treating Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, were she was initially treated), is now Ebola hemorrhagic fever free, thirteen days after testing positive. Nina appeared today outside the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, where she was treated, and gave a short prepared statement, in which she also said:
“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today. I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me…although I no longer have Ebola, I know that it may be a while before I have my strength back.”
Nina thanked the hospital staff for the great care she received, and specifically mentioned Dr. Kent Brantly “for his selfless act” of donating plasma during her treatment (Brantly is the American physician who contracted Ebola while working with a nonprofit medical mission group in Liberia. He was flown to Atlanta for treatment in August and has fully recovered). Nina also indicated she was looking forward to reuniting with her dog, Bently, who has been quarantined since she got sick. His test results came back negative for the virus earlier this week.
Anthony Fauci Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters flatly:
“She has no virus.” He also reminded the public that Ebola is not easily passed from person to person. “The way you get Ebola is by direct contact with the body fluids of an ill individual…and if you don’t have that, you do not have to worry about Ebola”
Since there is a lot of misinformation about Ebola and fear of this deadly disease (which at present, has no cure), it’s important to get the facts straight:
1. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person (blood, saliva, vomit, sweat, breast milk).
2. The disease, in both humans and animals, is caused by an infection from one of four Ebola viruses, which attack cells in the body (Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV), Bundibugyo ebolavirus (USDV), Sudab ebolavirus (SUDV, Tai Forect ebolavirus (TAFV) and Reston ebolavirus (RESTV). The fifth virus, Reston, only caused illness in animals, not humans).
3. Symptoms (similar to flu and malaria) include severe headache, fever of at least above 100.1 degrees, muscle pain, throwing up, diarrhea, bruising, coughing up blood, chills and stomach pain.
4. Incubation period after being infected is typically two to 21 days, although small number of cases may take longer.
5. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, all in West Africa, are the countries hit the hardest.
6. Average fatality rate is about 50 percent. Treatment includes antibodies from patients who have recovered; intravenous fluids and helping patients maintain their blood pressure and oxygen intake. There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola.
7. Liberia had 2,705 Ebola deaths out of 4,665 cases, according to the US centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
8. Guinea had 904 deaths out of 1,540 cases. Sierra Leon had 1,259 deaths out of 3,706 cases.
9. The disease can be eradicated. Nigeria, which had eight deaths, and Senegal, which had one case but no deaths, are now Ebola free, says the World Health Organization.
10. The risk to the population at large is small since Ebola is not airborne and requires contact with bodily fluids of infected people, post incubation period. Ebola is not transmissible if someone is asymptomatic or once someone has recovered from it. However, the virus has been found in semen for up to three months.
11. Risk to medical personnel and first-responders is higher, which is why special Hazmat suits are used and protocols are in place.
Although Ebola is a deadly disease with no known vaccine or cure, it is not easily transmitted and the people most at risk are the medical personnel and first responders who might come in contact with an ill person’s bodily fluids. Reason, education, care and precautions are the order of the day, not panic and the spreading of wild and false rumors, including the stupid and the absurd. (One such example is Nick Muzin, Senator Ted Cruz’s Deputy Chief of Staff who tweeted that “before Obamacare, there had never been a confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.,” implying that there is some connection between The Affordable Health Care Act, providing millions of American’s with affordable health care, and the few Ebola virus cases.)
Hopefully cool heads will prevail, we will get our priorities straight and celebrate our health care system, which in spite of being far from perfect, has managed to handle the few Ebola infections on American soil very well, put a system in place to detect and control possible new infectious people, and provide aid to those countries in Africa who need it desperately. Nipping the Ebola outbreak in the bud in Africa while also being vigilant and on the lookout here for the few infections we might get, is the best solution. Obviously a vaccine and cure would also be very welcome.
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