What You Need to Know: Ebola

If you’ve been keeping up with the news at all lately, chances are you have heard a lot of talk about Ebola. The outbreak of the virus has recently spread beyond Africa, and as expected many people are nervous. The news keeps telling us that the United States can easily combat the virus, but you still can’t help but worry, right? Especially after hearing of the death of Thomas Duncan, the first person to contract Ebola in the United States, it is easy to panic. Before you do, however, it is important to educate yourself. We hear all the extreme statistics and horror stories surrounding the outbreak, but how much do we really know? Determining the facts about Ebola can greatly help reduce the stress you may be feeling.

What is Ebola?
Ebola is a virus originally transmitted to people through wild animals, but now spreads human to human. The recent outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976.

How does it spread?
Ebola spreads through direct contact through broken skin, like a wound, or mucous membranes, like the eyes, with blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people and also with materials like bedding and clothing that have been contaminated with these fluids.

What are the symptoms?
The first symptoms of Ebola are a fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Eventually, these are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding.

How long are you contagious for once you contract the virus?
People are not contagious until they start developing symptoms. It may take anywhere from 2 to 21 days after contracting the virus for symptoms to appear. Once diagnosed, a person is contagious as long as their bodily fluids contain the virus. These bodily fluids include but are not limited to urine, sweat, feces, saliva, vomit, semen, and breast milk.

What is the fatality rate?
There have been other outbreaks of different strains of Ebola with fatality rates of 90%, but the average fatality rate is about 50% for this specific outbreak.

Is there a vaccine?
There are 2 vaccine candidates undergoing evaluation, but at this point in time there is no FDA approved treatment or vaccine for the virus.

What is the United States doing to prevent an outbreak in the US?
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that in order to prevent further Ebola outbreaks, it is important to maintain surveillance for the virus at airports. WHO also wants to support at-risk countries to develop preparedness plans.

What does all this mean?
The United States is caring for the few cases here to the best of their abilities. The country currently does not have a Surgeon General appointed, but the government is assuring the public not to worry. Our country has the resources to contain the virus for those cases that are already diagnosed. There are not many precautions to be taken from the public, just be aware of the symptoms and avoid bodily fluids of others. At this point in time, there is no real need to panic about contracting the virus, the country is mainly focusing on continuing to screen people entering the US in hopes of stopping the virus from spreading.

For more information please visit http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/ or to read an interesting article on other things you may want to know about Ebola, check out this article from USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/10/08/ebola-texas-dallas-death/16914319/

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What You Need to Know (WYNTK)

In today’s world there are lots of public health issues being addressed, but do you actually know much about them? You may have heard about them or know a little bit, but UPHA thinks it is important to stay educated, that way we can eventually be the change and make the world a better place. That’s why we’ve started this new post called “What You Need to Know”. Whenever there is a public health issue relevant in the media that we feel should be discussed, we will provide the facts in this segment and open up the conversation. Feel free to comment or join us at our weekly meetings (Tuesdays at 8:30 in PSY B39) to talk more about any of the topics we post about, or email us at upha@bu.edu if you have any ideas about something you think should be featured as a WYNTK.