Ebola Fears Hit American Shores

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Ebola virus fears hit American shores and continue to mount as two infected aid workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, working in Liberia were airlifted this week to the United States for further treatment. In addition to this continuing, well-publicized story, there were also new concerns raised in New York City when a patient, who had recently traveled to West Africa, presented at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan with a high fever and gastrointestinal problems on Sunday.

The hospital reported on Monday, the man is being kept in isolation while tests are being done to rule out Ebola, but also for other illnesses that could have caused his symptoms. Heightened concern about the Ebola virus has led to alarms being raised at three hospitals in New York City. However, thus far, no cases of the deadly virus have been confirmed in the U.S.

The New York City Health Department also issued a statement on Monday stipulating the department was in close consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mount Sinai Hospital. Officials have concluded the most recent patient is unlikely to have Ebola. However, specimens are being tested for common causes of illness and to definitively rule out Ebola. The test results are expected on Tuesday. Moreover, the patient was rushed into strict isolation less than 10 minutes after his arrival at the hospital. Furthermore, Mount Sinai has assured the public that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all patients, visitors, and staff at the facility, as well as stressed the fact that while Ebola is highly contagious, it is not transmitted via casual contact.

Infection with the Ebola virus is achieved via direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, and saliva. The virus causes fever and headache in early stages, but can ultimately lead to hemorrhaging, liver and kidney failure, and death in many cases. Earlier Ebola outbreaks have seen mortality rates as high as 90 percent, however, this current outbreak is averaging less than 60 percent. It is believed that faster, improved medical care may play a pivotal role in the reduced mortality rates involved.

Meanwhile, as Ebola fears hit American shores, the two American aid workers stricken with the virus in Liberia may be showing signs of improvement after receiving additional experimental treatments prior to being airlifted to the U.S. According to reports, Dr. Brantly and Writebol each received a dose of an experimental serum while still in Liberia. In addition, it was revealed that Dr. Brantly also received a blood transfusion from one of his patients, who had survived Ebola under his care. Moreover, it was also suggested that both victims received antibody treatments only previously used in monkeys to combat the virus.

The experimental treatment administered to the infected aid workers was developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which is a closely-held, nine employee company based in San Diego, CA. According to sources, a small dose of the drug, which has been dubbed ZMapp, was sent at sub-zero temperatures last week from Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), which produces the treatment from tobacco plants. Samaritan’s Purse, which is the U.S.-based charity the two infected Americans worked with in Liberia, requested the treatment.

Writebol, 59, was airlifted from Liberia on Monday in a medical aircraft headed to Atlanta, GA. She is expected to arrive on Tuesday to be treated by infectious disease specialists in a special isolation ward at Emory University Hospital, according to SIM USA, which is a Christian missionary group that sponsored Writebol. Once she arrives in Atlanta, she will be treated alongside the 33-year-old Brantly, who was returned home on August 2 via medical aircraft after being stricken with Ebola during his aid work in the worst outbreak on record of the hemorrhagic virus.

As Ebola fears hit American shores, the toll from the deadly virus outbreak spreading in West Africa has risen to 1,603 cases and 887 deaths, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday. The week ending August 1 saw more than 160 new cases and 61 deaths, according to reports. These newest numbers mean the overall death rate stands at approximately 55 percent, as opposed to previous Ebola outbreaks that have had mortality rates up to 90 percent. Medical experts have speculated that faster, improved medical care may play a pivotal role in the reduced mortality rates involved. While there is no approved medicine or vaccine specifically for Ebola treatment, supportive care and maintaining fluids appears to be most beneficial to victims of the deadly virus.

By Leigh Haugh

New York Times

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