(TheAntiMedia) Over 1,200 cases of Ebola, a severe hemorrhagic fever, have been confirmed in Western Africa. The mortality rate has been over 50% in this specific epidemic. The disease has spread to the major cities of the region, placing the rest of the world at risk of an outbreak through air travel. Thumbnail credit: realclear.com
Although Liberia has closed its borders with the exception of major points of entry and has established testing procedures for all incoming and outgoing passengers, the threat of the disease traveling to a distant country is very real. A single infected passenger on an aircraft could spread the disease to another continent. Systemic corruption and failing infrastructure in Africa make even the best efforts of the government slightly better than pointless.
The disease has spread to Monrovia, a city with a population of over 1 million. Lack of education increases the likelihood that the Liberian people will become their own worst enemy as they refuse the advice of aid workers. Some believe the deaths are the result of an evil spirit sweeping the nation. One Liberian senator said the disease was a government scam. Two American workers have been infected with the disease.
Experts say that the likelihood of an outbreak in the United States is small [UPDATE: the first case of Ebola has been confirmed in the US]. The disease, in its current form, must be transferred via intimate contact and the transmission of bodily fluids. The odds of containment are not quite as good in other parts of the world with more communal facilities and personal interaction.
The World Health Organization states Ebola
“spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.”
Symptoms of the disease begin with a sudden fever. Weakness, muscle pain, headaches, and sore throat follow quickly. As the virus progresses, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and external bleeding is noticeable. Inside the body, the kidneys and liver begin to fail and internal bleeding occurs. In many epidemics, the fatality rate reaches 90% of those infected.
The Mayo Clinic provides a list of preventative measures on its website:
- Avoid traveling to areas of known outbreaks. Before traveling to Africa, find out about any current epidemics by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Wash your hands frequently. As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures for Ebola virus and Marburg virus is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water aren’t available.
- Avoid bush meat. In developing countries, wild animals, including nonhuman primates, are sold in local markets. Avoid buying or eating any of these animals.
- Avoid contact with infected people. In particular, caregivers should avoid contact with the person’s body fluids and tissues, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. People with Ebola or Marburg are most contagious in the later stages of the disease.
- Follow infection-control procedures. If you’re a health care worker, wear protective clothing — such as gloves, masks, gowns and eye shields. Keep infected people isolated from others. Carefully disinfect and dispose of needles and other instruments. Injection needles and syringes should not be reused.
- Don’t handle remains. The bodies of people who have died of Ebola or Marburg disease are still contagious. Specially organized and trained teams should bury the remains, using appropriate safety equipment.
There is currently no vaccine, and this is the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record.
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