RadioMD: Staying Well

Ebola Scare in the US: The Beginning of the End?

October 6, 20149 min
Is the U.S. really prepared if an Ebola outbreak were to occur?When the news first broke about a deadly virus in Western Africa in March, you might have paid little attention. Months started to pass and the virus took thousands of lives and five American Ebola victims began coming to the United States for treatment. This may have caused a sudden panic and caused you to question if you're truly safe or not.First, medical missionaries who were in Africa Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly arrived in the U.S. to seek medical treatment for Ebola. They received an experimental drug, ZMapp and have been Ebola-free ever since.Another doctor and missionary, Dr. Rick Sacra was flown in from Africa, was taken to a Nebraska hospital and was treated for Ebola in a three week period.Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man began showing symptoms of Ebola after visiting his family for a couple of weeks in the U.S. He is fighting for his life in a Dallas hospital, while his family anxiously awaits the potential risk of more outbreaks between them.The most recent patient, Ashoka Mukpo, an NBC journalist arrived this morning (October 6) from Liberia at a Nebraska hospital to seek medical treatment.Now that Ebola is in the U.S, you might be this the beginning of the end?Ebola, which was previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a serious and often fatal disease that causes fever, sore throat, muscle weakness and soreness, and internal bleeding. Symptoms usually occur between seven to 21 days after exposure.How can you differentiate flu symptoms from Ebola symptoms?There are two triggers that can help determine if you have Ebola or just the flu. One is having the exposure, which for the moment is coming from the western parts of African countries. The second is if you have been in those areas, have you had contact with anyone with Ebola?However, Duncan, the patient who was visiting from Liberia has had contact with his family members raises concern. Health officials are closely monitoring the 50 people that may have been in contact with him.How is Ebola spread?Even though you might have been hearing that Ebola could be airborne, it can only be spread through bodily fluids. This includes and is not limited to: spit, urine, vomit, semen, or feces. This also means you would have to touch the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick or has died from Ebola and have contact with your mouth, eyes, or nose in order for you to become infected.It's important to know that Ebola can live on surfaces, but the life span is limited to a few hours. But, the blood that has been dried up with blankets or towels from someone who has Ebola, or the virus that is located in the body of someone infected can live up to two-seven days.Once these patients are treated, does that mean they are immune to Ebola for life?Unfortunately, there are several strains of Ebola and even though several patients have been treated, it doesn't mean they aren't susceptible from the other strains.Is the U.S. really prepared if an Ebola outbreak were to occur?Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Dr. Irwin Redlener joins Melanie Cole, MS to discuss how Ebola is spread, how you can differentiate symptoms from the flu, and if the U.S. is really prepared if an Ebola outbreak were to happen.

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