Ebola in the U.S.: Chances of Catching the Deadly Disease


Ebola has a case fatality rate upwards of 90 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is no wonder that U.S. citizens are a bit on edge, to say the least, as several aid workers contaminated with the Ebola virus are set to touch down, perhaps at an airport nearby, Saturday morning. Potentially contracting this fatal disease is a very real worry to a lot of people. What is even more worrisome to many is that since this deadly virus is a fairly new disease, making its first known appearance as recently as 1976, there is no specified treatment or vaccine. Ebola, along with those infected, will be gaining entrance into the U.S., however the chances of catching the deadly disease might not be as high as some think. Perhaps a bit more information will work to soothe the worries of those on edge.

Most people do not run the realistic possibility of contracting Ebola Virus or Marburg Viruses (hemorrhagic fevers) according to information from the Mayo Clinic. Very specific circumstances need to occur in order for the disease to be transmitted, especially in an environment where it is naturally unlikely. Transmission of Ebola is most common from animals, mostly primates, to humans. This is why it is most prevalent in regions where primates have closer proximity to human activity. Human to human transmission is rare, but most common when those caring for afflicted individuals do not have proper protective gear on like surgical masks and gloves. Of course, in remote villages in Africa, it is likely that aid workers do not have the ability to take such safety precautions and thus are vulnerable to contracting the deadly disease.

Ebola is most often contracted in only a few instances: when a person comes into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of another person already infected, from an animal carrying the disease, when burying the bodies of those whose lives have already been taken by the disease (they remain contagious), or when administering medical care without the proper safety gear in place. That being said, the chances of actually catching the deadly disease in the U.S., where only a couple of people have been infected with the Ebola virus and will be receiving proper medical attention, are extremely unlikely.

With the recent outbreak, far too many have seen first-hand how deadly this elusive disease can be and just what it looks like to suffer the symptoms associated with the disease as well as the unbearable effects of the disease itself. What worries some even more is the quite common nature of the symptoms themselves: Fever, aches, both head and muscle, sore throat, feeling weak and diarrhea are just a few of the symptoms commonly associated with the Ebola virus, appearing between two and 21 days after a person has been exposed to the disease and infected. These common flu-like symptoms do little to alleviate the anxiety many Americans are feeling in anticipation of the disease’s arrival. WebMD researchers elaborate on the details of the disease once it takes effect, explaining that: “As the virus spreads through the body’s cells, it damages the immune system and organs.” After said damage has been caused, the victims suffer severe bleeding both internally and externally. Some reports have even described, in extreme cases, victims bleeding from the eyes.

Though reports have surfaced – like the extreme case mentioned above that are doing little to calm nerves, not to mention the recent uptick in rental sales for Outbreak – health officials persist that American citizens need not worry. According to a recent article in the LA Times, both patients are being transported back state-side via a private medical charter, outfitted with the most innovative technology, ensuring the safest journey and minimizing potential risks for the patients, medical personnel and flight crew. Both infected persons are American citizens whose contraction of the disease was come by as they honorably served others in need. So, unless the average U.S. citizen has plans to come into contact with either of the victims’ blood or other bodily fluids, the chances of catching the deadly Ebola disease are highly unlikely.

By Heather Everett (Pomper)

Web MD
Mayo Clinic
LA Times

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