With reports that two Americans have now been diagnosed with the Ebola virus while working to help Africans in Liberia, Western focus has shifted to the dangers of an Ebola outbreak. According to Samaritan’s Purse, the group for which both Americans work, doctor Kent Brantly contracted Ebola and then isolated himself; Nancy Writebol, an employee of Serving in Mission, was helping Ebola patients as well when she was infected.
The World Health Organization, according to CNN.com, has measured the current outbreak in West Africa as the “deadliest ever,” including at least 1,093 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. CNN states, “Of the 1,093 confirmed, probable and suspected cases, 660 people have died.”
So, here’s what you need to know about Ebola:
Transmission. Scientists speculate that original outbreaks come from human-animal contact. The World Health Organization states:
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.
While Ebola transmission is not airborne, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it can be transmitted by “direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person,” as well as “exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.” That is why medical personnel are in a more dangerous position than members of the general public – they routinely deal with bodily fluids. As the CDC notes, Exposure to ebolaviruses can occur in health care settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves.” Ebola can be spread via semen for up to 7 weeks, according to WHO.
USA Today reports that according to Michael Osterholm of the Center for Infection Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, “Ebola is actually much harder to spread than respiratory infections, such as influenza or measles. Those viruses pose a much greater threat on a plane or in any confined space.”
Incubation Period. The typical incubation period for the virus is somewhere between eight and ten days after exposure, although symptoms could appear, according to CDC, “anywhere from 2 to 21 days.” It has been measured to survive in semen up to two months.
Symptoms. Symptoms mimic those of the typical flu virus, until they spiral out of control. Symptoms begin with fever, headache, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and muscle aches. Ebola then can accelerate to include internal and external bleeding.
Kill Rate. According to the World Health Organization, “EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%.” A history of Ebola outbreaks shows incidents ranging from 280 deaths in Congo (out of 318 diagnosed) in 1976 to 224 dead out of 425 diagnosed in Uganda in 2000. That makes this the largest outbreak in history.Treatment. There is no vaccine for Ebola. The only treatment, as Medecins Sans Frontieres states, “consists of hydrating the patient, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure and treating them for any complicating infections.”
Will It Spread? CNN talked to MSF epidemiologist Kamiliny Kalahne. She said Ebola has not reached first world countries because “people generally transmit the infection when they are very sick, have a high fever and a lot of symptoms — and in these situations, they don’t travel. And even if they do get sick once they travel to a developed country, they will be in a good hospital with good infection control, so they are very unlikely to infect others.”
All of this, of course, assumes that people don’t travel when they’re sick…or immigrating. It assumes a level of distance between immigrants and non-immigrants. Should we all start wearing masks? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean we should be nearly as blithe about the situation as our government seems to be.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.