The spread of Ebola in Africa has caused widespread panic. Liberia has closed its borders, and its president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, though she has kept airports open, is considering quarantining certain urban neighborhoods in the country. Sirleaf has left a few border entry points where incoming visitors are being monitored and tested for Ebola. She has restricted public gatherings, and restaurants, hotels and other entertainment venues are playing short videos on methods to prevent contracting and spreading Ebola. With all these precautions as the Ebola outbreak is spreading, should there be an American cause for concern?
As of July 20, there have been 224 cases of Ebola in Liberia, and 127 of those who contracted the disease have died. The overall death toll in West Africa is at 672, which includes two prominent African doctors. As of July 23 the number of cases in West Africa alone has reached 1,201. Ebola has spread across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gabon, South Sudan, the Ivory Coast and Uganda. Officials and healthcare workers say the spread of the virus is primarily due to ignorance of how the disease spreads, with family members contracting Ebola from washing the bodies of dead loved ones.
There has been a widespread effort in affected countries to educate the public about how the disease is spread, and although it has helped slow down the spread of the disease, fear is causing villages to completely shun and attack healthcare workers who have come to remove the ill and disinfect houses. The villagers feel that healthcare workers are actually spraying the virus in their homes. There also are reports of spiritual leaders professing to be able to heal the sick, and this is causing more chaos and spreading Ebola even more due to these “miracle workers” holding meetings to supposedly heal the sick.
Currently there is no vaccine for Ebola. With a 90 percent fatality rate, contagion is a great cause of concern for healthcare workers who are treating patients. Two Americans working at a clinic contracted the virus, and there are fears of more Western doctors contracting the illness as well. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has addressed this issue, holding a media briefing on the Ebola outbreak on Monday, July 28. They informed the press that the Ebola outbreak should not be an American cause for concern, but did emphasize the importance of American healthcare workers being vigilant and for them to get tested if there is a suspicion of illness.
The CDC recommends all sick travelers to America be isolated and monitored when returning from countries directly affected by Ebola. The CDC also is working with American healthcare providers to educate them about the disease and to question their patients about where they have traveled and if their patient had traveled to West Africa in the last three weeks, they were to take “important steps” to prevent the illness. The CDC also issued a Level 2 travel notice, urging travelers to the affected countries to cancel their trips if they are for nonessential reasons, and educating them to take proper precautions to prevent contracting the disease.
Another concern is how many people have come in contact with a man who flew from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is the biggest city in Africa, with 21 million people. The was taken to the hospital due to his symptoms. He arrived on July 20 and was dead by July 25. This passenger also had traveled to Ghana, and switched flights in Togo en route to Nigeria. So far the state department has identified 59 people who came in contact with the man. Although the CDC has stated there is little risk of Ebola spreading to the U.S., The CDC’s deputy director of Emerging and Zoonotic Infections Diseases, Stephan Monroe admitted that the Ebola outbreak is a rapidly changing situation and that he expected more cases in the near future.
Another report sheds light on the urgency of other countries responses to the epidemic, with health officials in the United Kingdom and China quarantining airline passengers from the West Africa region who show symptoms of the disease. A director for Doctors Without Borders stated that the Ebola outbreak was “totally out of control.” Although the CDC is downplaying this epidemic, they are actively engaging the healthcare profession and urging all to be proactive and practice proper hygiene. The Ebola outbreak is currently not an American cause for concern, but now is definitely a time for awareness.
By Adrianne Hill