With rising concerns of Ebola in the U.S., knowing about the virus’s history and how it spreads is important.
According to the World Health Organization’s website, the Ebola virus first appeared in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1970s. Two outbreaks occurred, one by the Ebola River in the Congo, where the virus got its name.
The current outbreak is the worst since 1976, causing WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to declare the Ebola virus to be a public health emergency of international concern.
Before, Ebola was mostly focused in areas near the rainforest. This current outbreak is a movement of the Zaire species of the virus to urban areas.
Ebola is assumed to be hosted by native fruit bats, and then passed to other animals, such as chimpanzees, where humans can then become affected, according to WHO’s website.
“Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membrane) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids,” according to the WHO’s website.
Humans possibly infected with the virus may show symptoms anywhere from two to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until symptoms begin to show.
A patient with Ebola can present sudden “fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools),” according to the WHO’s website.
There are a number of tests to help diagnose Ebola.
Early treatment of hydration and specific treatment of some symptoms increase survival. According to the WHO’s website, the average fatality rate is 50 percent.
While there is no true licensed cure for Ebola currently, there are two vaccines that are potential candidates.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, there have been only three confirmed cases of Ebola in the U.S.
The first confirmed case was that of Thomas Eric Duncan, reported on Sept. 30 in Dallas. He traveled from Africa to the United States, where he began to show symptoms of the virus. Duncan died on Oct. 8.
On Oct. 10 and Oct. 14, two hospital workers who helped treat Duncan tested positive for Ebola. Each worker was isolated.
The CDC said on its website that the “CDC recognizes that any case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States raises concerns, and any death is too many. Medical and public health professionals across the country have been preparing to respond.”
Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a tele-briefing that the CDC is doing everything it can to help actively prevent new cases of Ebola from being contracted in the U.S. and that, while the risk level isn’t at Level 0 yet, the risk is decreasing.
“We’ll continue to do whatever we can to reduce risk to Americans,” Frieden said. “The fact that three individuals in this country have developed Ebola in this country is obviously of great concern. And it reminds us that until we can stop the outbreak at the source, we can do lots of things to reduce the risk and at this point, the risk is getting lower through these measures.”
Anna Orlofsky, a senior English and Spanish double major from Troy, said that the more information she’s learned about the virus, the less worry she has about contracting the disease.
“When it first broke out, I was terrified,” Orlofsky said. “I was running around in July sure I wasn’t going to make it to Christmas. Now that I’ve researched the topic, I feel that if people in the U.S. are safe and smart, we should be fine.”