Ebola Among Us
By: Brooke Zentmeyer
If you’ve recently read newspaper headlines, flipped through the local channels of your TV, or checked the most recent Twitter hashtags, you have probably noticed the phrase “Ebola” popping up here and there. In the fast paced world of information we live in, it may have been easy for you to see the word “Ebola” followed by its terrifying partner “virus” and immediately start stocking up on survival supplies and boarding up your home against the sickness. Hopefully, many of you were sensible and researched the Ebola virus a bit before you went into “Apocalypse Now” mode, but if that’s not you, have no shame. Your eagerness to protect yourself and your family is impressive and important too. But since it is important to be educated in the problems facing our world and country today, I’m going to give you a breakdown of just what exactly the Ebola virus is and how it is affecting our nation.
Ebola is a fatal disease that was first discovered in Africa in the 1960’s. Scientists believe the virus is animal-borne as bats and primates are capable of contracting Ebola. The disease can only be transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of someone or something that has been affected which is why eating infected animals can transmit the disease to humans. Ebola can be spread through humans by contact with an infected persons blood or bodily fluids, as well as any object that has been contaminated with the disease such as clothes or medical instruments.
Now since everyone and their dog in America that has been feeling under the weather in the past week or two has immediately declared that they most likely have contracted Ebola, you might be a little confused on just what exactly Ebola looks like. You might have even thought at some point, “My nose has been running for the past few days, am I going to die?”. The answer, of course, is no. The symptoms of Ebola are a bit more specific than the common cold. Generally, if a person contracts Ebola, the first signs of the virus will begin to show between 2 and 21 days. A fever above 101.5°F, vomiting, unexplained bleeding or bruising, muscle pain, general weakness, diarrhea, and stomach pain are all symptoms of the Ebola virus. An infected individual could display any number of these symptoms between the time they first are infected, and the time where they are either healed or overtaken by the disease.
The Ebola outbreak currently taking place in multiple countries of West Africa is the largest in history with a current total of around 8,000 diagnosed cases and the virus still has the potential to become much worse. Scientists speculate that the virus has recently begun spreading so fast because it was allowed to get out of control in one African country before the world did anything about it, and then it began to jump borders. The poor medical infrastructure existing within most of these countries has made it difficult for them to treat the disease on their own, especially since those caring for the Ebola stricken, the doctors and nurses coming into close contact with the bodily fluids of the infected, are the most likely to also contract the disease. Treatment for Ebola is also basically nonexistent, which makes the disease even more difficult to control. Experimental vaccines and treatments are currently in development, but will probably not have the possibility of being mass produced for a while yet.
However, since the disease has begun to spring up in citizens of more wealthy and economically powerful countries, other countries have begun to put forth a greater effort towards helping Africa battle Ebola. For example, President Obama announced that 3,000 U.S. troops will be sent into West Africa in order to combat the disease. The U.S. desire to control and stop the outbreak became even greater when the first imported case of Ebola appeared in Dallas, Texas on September 30th and Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man infected, has since passed away.
If you weren’t already freaking out about the whole mess, you’re probably thinking “OMG somebody in America had it?! Doesn’t that mean it’s going to start spreading here now?!”. Well, it is of course possible that Ebola could start spreading in America. But is it likely? The U.S. really needs to calm itself down, because the answer is no. Ebola is not an airborne virus, and the only way to contract it is contact the bodily fluids of an infected individual. Ebola also does not survive for long outside of a host, so the risk of unknowingly touching something an Ebola infected person has contaminated is extremely unlikely. The United States also has a much broader, much more knowledgeable, and much more sterile medical infrastructure capable of handling the disease. Most U.S. officials are confident that America is capable of containing and quickly stomping out any Ebola cases that might spring up. Does this mean there is no potential of a U.S. outbreak? Of course not, but you definitely don’t need to be blowing up every social media site you’re a member of with claims of how Ebola is going to end the world.
I hope by reading this article, you have gained insight into the Ebola infection currently frightening the world, as well helped convince you of the more paranoid sort that it’s safe to come outside.