The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has far-reaching consequences. For this reason, the World Health Organization has declared it an international emergency that requires global coordination to fight, according to CNN. However, there is a lot of paranoia circulating about the disease, and doctors may need to take the initiative to educate their patient bases about world health concerns.
The outbreak started earlier this year and has infected 1,779 people and killed 961 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It recently spread to Nigeria. The virus initially causes fever, weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat and moves to diarrhea and internal and external hemorrhaging. The virus is spread through contact with organs or bodily fluid. Although there is no cure and a high fatality rate for those who have been infected, people can survive Ebola if treated early by maintaining bodily fluids. This can help people fight the infection. Research into the virus has indicated that certain people may have the genetic makeup to resist Ebola as well.
Is a Potential Outbreak in the US Likely?
Ebola has inspired a great deal of panic because of the gruesome symptoms and lack of a cure. A top Ebola doctor recently succumbed to the disease. In addition, two American aid workers who were infected with the disease while working in West Africa have been moved back to the U.S. for treatment, which has sparked fears of an outbreak. The patients are being treated in Atlanta, a separate article from CNN reported. Dramatic newspaper headlines have fueled the fears of a widespread outbreak in the U.S., but this is incredibly unlikely.
While Ebola is a deeply concerning illness, there has never been an outbreak in a developed nation, and it's unlikely that there will be now. For example, one of the ways people can get the virus is from consuming bush meat such as fruit bats or monkeys. Even coming into contact with these types of infected animals is unlikely to happen in the U.S.
Some people are concerned that Ebola could spread from air passengers traveling from regions where the infection has spread, but many airlines are closely monitoring this issue, National Geographic stated. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Ebola is only contagious when symptoms are present, so someone couldn't unknowingly pass it on. Because bodily fluids carry most of the virus, those who are most at risk are family members and aid workers caring for sick individuals.
Ebola is a serious illness, but the outbreak is much smaller than other infectious diseases. The death toll is creeping toward 1,000, but this is a much lower number than less-dramatic illnesses like influenza, measles and malaria, according to CNN. People tend to be preoccupied with the symptoms of Ebola, but it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. The two aid workers who are being treated for the disease are in quarantine, and many health workers understand how to isolate patients with Ebola symptoms. Many West Africans have a fear of Western medicine, which has caused them to distrust aid workers in the region, leading to a wider spread. In addition, cultural practices such as eating bats has caused more people to become infected.
While more aid is needed to contain the outbreak in West Africa, many health experts believe it's possible as long as people with the early symptoms are quickly treated, National Geographic said. Because there is a great deal of paranoia surrounding Ebola in the U.S., physicians can work to educate their patients on this issue and communicate how this illness can be avoided.