Ebola: A crash course

Kathleen Keaveny

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The Center for Disease Control confirmed that a patient in Dallas has officially been diagnosed with the Ebola virus Sept. 30. This is the first travel-associated diagnosis of Ebola within the United States and, as a result, Americans are fearing for their health and safety. The Ebola virus has been making international headlines and has taken 3,091 lives as of late September. However, many people are uninformed on the issue. Here is a quick crash course on what you need to know to get caught up on the Ebola virus situation.

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What is it, and how do you become infected?

The Ebola virus affects humans, as well as nonhuman primates, and is a severe illness with a 90 percent mortality rate. There have been 3,091 deaths and 6,500 cases as of Sept. 30. 

Ebola has a plethora of symptoms, but it typically begins with a sudden fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat and muscle ache. It then commonly leads to diarrhea, impaired liver and kidney function, vomiting and bleeding from orifices.

Transmission of this virus occurs when there is direct human-to-human contact through bodily secretions and fluids of an infected person. A person is likely to become infected if an infected person’s bodily secretions come in contact with a healthy person’s broken skin or mucus membranes.

There is currently no FDA licensed vaccine or treatment for Ebola.

Where is Ebola?

west-africa-distribution-map
Map of areas affected with the Ebola virus in Western Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ebola originated with two outbreak cases in Sudan and along the Ebola River in 1976, although the 2014 outbreak in Western Africa is the most severe in history. 

Current Western African countries suffering from the Ebola virus outbreak are Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and Liberia. Recent cases have developed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, though not at a large outbreak level.

The first travel-associated case of Ebola was diagnosed by the CDC in the United States Sept. 30.

What are health organizations doing?

The Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and other international health organizations have been sending teams of health care experts to the regions and countries affected with the Ebola virus in order to investigate and ultimately control the disease.

These organizations are working to educate areas affected on the illness, providing disease surveillance and tracing, laboratory testing and data management. They are also advising airports on how to safely transport Ebola patients, as well as how to prevent transmission.

Should Americans panic?

No.

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Ebola is a serious situation in Western Africa because they have weak health systems, they don’t have enough properly trained health workers or protective gear and infected bodies are being left in the streets.

The United States spends an average of $8,895 on health care per capita. Sierra Leone spends $96, Nigeria $94, Liberia $65 and the Democratic Republic of Congo spends only $15 on health care per capita.

Put simply, the health systems in Western Africa are overwhelmed with Ebola patients and are having difficulty containing and treating the disease.

Living in the United States, or any country with strong health care systems, it is highly unlikely to come in contact with Ebola. It is likely there will be more Ebola cases in the U.S. due to travel-associated exposure. However, no need to panic. Americans are lucky to have the health care and disease control systems that they do.

Gifs courtesy of Giphy

Collegian Interactive News Team member Kathleen Keaveny can be reached at socialmedia@collegian.com.