Over the last few months, Western Africa has braved what many experts have called “the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history.”
The virus has now spread to Lagos, Nigeria, the most populated city in Africa, through air-travel. Despite the severity of this horrid disease and the fact that it could eventually spread to the US, many American’s have never even heard of Ebola. It is even more alarming to see some doctors and many in the news media try and downplay the gravity of the situation
On Thursday, during House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health hearing titled, “Combating the Ebola Threat,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said he will be requesting funding for a “pandemic.”
“I have introduced legislation known as the neglected tropical disease act which establishes to support a broad range of research activities to achieve cost-effective and sustainable treatment and control and, where possible, the elimination of neglected tropical diseases.
Ebola is not on the top list of 17 neglected tropical diseases, but it does fit the definition of an infection caused by pathogens that is proportionally impact individuals living in extreme poverty, especially in developing countries.
Ebola had been thought to be limited to areas where it could be contained. we know that is no longer true. We need to take seriously the effort to devise more effective means of addressing this and all”
Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a horrible, deadly viral infection that is easily spread through both direct and indirect contact with all bodily fluids or in the words of the Centers for Disease Control “secretions.”
In an effort to downplay the threat of Ebola, some pundits dispute that it is spread easily. The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstine, for example, recently who wrote an article titled “Why you’re not going to get Ebola in the U.S.”
In his article, Bernstein tries to convince us that we should not fear Ebola because the “transmission of Ebola requires direct contact with an infected person’s blood, vomit or feces during the period that he or she is contagious, something that is extremely unlikely for anyone but health-care workers.”
What Mr. Bernstine fails to mention is that Ebola is spread through all secretions, including sweat, saliva, urine and mucus, and that a victim can get the disease by contacting an object an infected person has touched.
For example, theoretically someone showing the early onset of flu like symptoms could sneeze into his or her hand while riding public transportation (such as Metro Rail) and then hold on to one of the railings, spreading the virus to that railing.
This would expose anyone else who touches that railing to the virus, which sounds a little easier to contract than what Mr. Bernstine claims. Additionally, while most commentators say Ebola is not airborne, there is at least one study done that showed the virus to be “somewhat airborne” between pigs and monkeys.
While it is nowhere near the time to panic, we should at least be more concerned than we are with the virus. With today’s global travel it wouldn’t be too hard for the virus to travel to the US, especially now that it has been spread to the Mega-City Lagos.
The first person to die in Nigeria was Patrick Sawyer, an American Citizen who was caring for his infected sister before he boarded a flight to Lagos. What is even scarier is that Sawyer was on his way back to the United States. What if he had remained well enough to board his flight home to the US?
A week ago, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden responded to inquiries about a possible spread to the US by saying “That is not happening,”. Dr. Frieden has recently changed his mind and now says that the spread of Ebola to the United States is “inevitable.”
The CDC and President Obama have also assured us that if the disease did spread to the US we would more than prepared to contain it. However, questions about exactly how “prepared” we are remain.
While we shouldn’t panic as Ebola still remains a distant disease far away in Africa, we also shouldn’t ignore the legitimate threat of a possible outbreak in the U.S. As Dr. Louis Pasteur once famously said “Fortune favors the prepared mind".