Ebola dominates the headlines recently, but a more important virus is normally in our minds this time of year; Influenza, or the Flu. The initial symptoms of Ebola and Influenza are quite similar, and distinguishing between the two give people pause. The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has caused somewhat of a panic of sorts here in the U.S., especially with the most recent events coming out of Dallas, Texas.
Thomas Eric Duncan died of the Ebola virus at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Oct. 8, after coming to the U.S. in mid-September, and presenting himself for treatment on Sept. 25. He was initially diagnosed with flu like symptoms, and sent home from the hospital, reportedly with a temperature of 103 degrees. He had come into direct contact with more than 100 people between his initial discharge from his first hospital visit until he returned to the hospital a second time when his symptoms worsened. The 21 day monitoring period for those 100 plus people ended today, and they were released from isolation.
Two of the nurses tending to Duncan have contracted the virus, said to be caused by inappropriate gowning and un-gowning procedures, as well as less than complete skin coverage. Those nurses are, Amber Vinson and critical care nurse Nina Pham.
Influenza season is in full swing, but the most recent numbers have yet to indicate any problems or outbreaks. Thoughts of acquiring the Ebola virus are omnipresent in most Americans minds, but it is unfounded. People are more likely to contract influenza, a curable disease, with symptoms similar to that of Ebola. This is the main reason for people’s concern; influenza can be cured, or even prevented with an inoculation, whereas Ebola has no known cure, and a mortality rate upwards of 50 percent. 50,000 deaths were attributed to influenza and related diseases last year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. (CDC)
The CDC’s FluView website says that influenza activity will become more prominent in the next few weeks, and for right now little or no flu activity has been reported across the U.S. Nationwide, reported cases of influenza have been below national standards for epidemic thresholds, as was the mortality rate for influenza and pneumonia related illnesses. Additionally, no incidences of infant death resulting from the flu have been reported in any of the 50 states.
Several of the most virulent strains of influenza have been reported this season, including the Influenza A H1N1 virus, the Influenza A H3N2 virus, along with several Influenza B viruses. As of today, Oct 20, 7,655 cases of flu have been tested this season, with a total of 282 cases determined to be influenza. 5.4 percent (52) of those cases were determined to have caused the death of the patient, below the epidemic threshold of six percent.
Symptoms of Ebola include Fever, vomiting diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bleeding, migraine headaches, weakness and muscle pain. Symptoms of influenza include Fever and chills, runny or stuffy nose, cough and a sore throat, muscle aches and pains, migraine headaches and general malaise. Additionally, children have reported vomiting and diarrhea. So you can see that several of the symptoms of Ebola and influenza are similar. Authorities in Dallas are investigating if Thomas Eric Duncan’s preliminary diagnosis was that of influenza, and not Ebola. This protocol for the misdiagnosis is important to note, so that any further instances of misdiagnosis can be mitigated worldwide.
By Jim Donahue