What is the Ebola Virus and are We at Risk in the USA?
The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has thrown the world into a global panic attack. And while the disease is very serious, it’s not necessarily similar to the Hollywood glorified epidemic portrayed by Morgan Freeman in Outbreak and it doesn’t always result in a terrible hemorrhaging death.
A Quick History Lesson
The Ebola virus was first recognized in 1976 in Zaire, Africa and was thought to be transmitted from monkeys into humans thanks to bats. There are actually four different strains of the disease that are dangerous: Bundibugyo virus (BDBV), Sudan virus (SUDV), Taï Forest virus (TAFV), and one called simply, Ebola virus (EBOV, formerly Zaire Ebola virus). However, the last one, simply called the Ebola virus, is the one that’s the most terrifying to humans.
Since rearing its ugly head in the seventies, Ebola has been considered rare and only diagnosed in about 2,360 people and resulted in 1,548 deaths. What makes the recent eruption so startling is the rapid spread of the disease, which has already claimed over 6,000 victims in five countries and caused almost 3,000 mortalities in a matter of months.
What are the Symptoms of the Ebola Virus?
Ebola is spread through contact with an infected human or animal’s body fluids. The symptoms of the disease can surface within a few days of contraction and generally feel like a bad flu; body sweats, fever, joint pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Unfortunately, about 50% of patients will experience bleeding from their mucous membranes (eyes, nose, gums, genitalia, gastro tract, etc.) and may have large rashes or hematomas throughout their body.
While the hemorrhaging is definitely not a good sign, it’s not necessarily a death sentence unless since Ebola only kills about half of its victims. If you make it past the two week mark, then there’s a very good chance of survival, although a long, slow recovery is imminent.
Is the USA at a high risk for an Ebola epidemic?
In short, no, not at this time. The US is not considered at high risk, although President Obama did recently declare it a “security threat”. A large reason for the current Ebola outbreak in Africa is due to the lack of adequate healthcare, since the disease requires a very high level of cleanliness and sterilization to isolate and contain those infected.
So for now, there’s no need to start wearing a mask and gloves on a daily basis, although you might want to postpone that trip to West Africa for the time being.