Ebola ~ Just the Facts

Readers of this blog (soon to be “resource library”) typically find health INSURANCE, FUNDING, and FINANCING issues addressed here.  But occasionally, health CARE issues come to light which I feel compelled to address.  With all the media coverage and confusion surrounding the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus, I decided to attempt to clarify some important facts.  My primary source of information for this post is the Douglas County Health Department (Douglas County, Nebraska), which under the direction of Dr. Adi Pour, does a fantastic job of data mining and educating, among other things.  (See http://www.douglascountyhealth.com )

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 in the Ebola River, which is located in a region of Africa now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo in lower, central Africa.  Although the virus has been found in several African countries since its initial outbreak, as of the time of this blog post, there are four (4) countries in the western region that have experienced outbreaks – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.  The current, 2014 outbreak is the largest in history, and the first to occur in west Africa.

Perhaps the most misunderstood, and in some instances, incorrectly reported aspect of Ebola, is how it is spread.  It is NOT spread via air or water, but rather through direct contact with someone who: a. is infected with the virus; and b. is also experiencing symptoms.  Clearly health care workers are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus, as evidenced by the recent reporting infected health care workers in Dallas, TX. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking very deliberate and focused measures to mitigate, if not prevent Ebola and for that matter all infectious diseases, from arriving and spreading throughout the U.S.

IMPORTANT: CDC Director – Thomas Friedan – specifically addressed rumors relative to the ability of the Ebola virus to spread through the air, which have actually “fueled” the rumor mill.
On 10/7/14, he said:
“The rate of change [with Ebola] is slower than most viruses, and most viruses don’t change how they spread.  That is not to say it’s impossible that it could change [to become airborne].  That would be the worst-case scenario.  We would know that by looking at…what is happening in Africa.  That is why we have scientists from the CDC on the ground tracking that.”

In addition to how the Ebola is (and is not) spread, here are some of the more relevant and pertinent facts concerning Ebola, gleaned from the aforementioned source:

  • An individual that recovers from being infected can no longer spread the virus.  However, the virus can survive for up to three months in semen.
  • Only mammals have shown the propensity to be infected with, and spread, Ebola.  Specifically at this point in time – humans, apes, monkeys, and bats.  Mosquito’s and other insects, at this point, are not able to transmit the Ebola virus.
  • The CDC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have specific protocols in place to prevent the Ebola virus from coming into the U.S. via non-human primates and bats.  The greater challenge, as we now know, is dealing with humans arriving on U.S. soil, who have contracted the virus.
  • The CDC is working with all U.S. hospitals on establishing and implementing the proper infection control measures to control the continued spread of the Ebola virus.
  • Since all U.S. citizens have the right to return to the U.S. for treatment of any contacted disease/disorder, we simply can not completely prevent infected citizens from re-entering the country.  For this reason, the CDC has taken specific and deliberate actions, including raising the travel alert level to Level 3 (i.e., travelers incur high risk of traveling to the four identified, west African countries, and are advised against nonessential travel to those locations).
  • The CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been activated to assist with the coordination, communication, monitoring, and management of this current challenge.