Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ebola - Should We Worry Now?

It's official.  We now have a case of Ebola in the US. We all expected it to happen sooner or later but now that it actually has, what happens now?

What is Ebola? Ebola (viral hemorrhagic fever) is a virus that causes overall damage to the vascular system manifested by bleeding and multi-organ dysfunction. It is normally acquired by travel to sub-Sahara Africa.  It is often fatal.  The symptoms of Ebola are headache, fever, swollen eyes, abdominal pain, bloody stools, vomiting blood, nose bleeding and diarrhea.  It's not a pleasant virus at all.  Ebola can be spread from person to person by direct contact in many ways including: blood and bodily fluids (urine, vomit, feces, semen), needles, syringes and other contaminated objects and infected animals.

So what happened? Well, this person recently traveled to Africa.  Several days after returning he became ill and went to the ER complaining of abdominal pain and a low grade fever.  When asked about recent travels he told the nurse that he had recently returned from Africa - a very important bit of information that apparently was not communicated to the doctor treating this man. He should have immediately been tested for Ebola, but he wasn't.  The hospital has admitted that "the ball was dropped".  Some basic blood work was completed and he was sent home with antibiotics.  Once he returned to the hospital via ambulance he tested positive for Ebola.  So what happened during the time that he was showing symptoms and contagious? Where did he go? Who was exposed?  It has been reported that several children were in close contact with this person.  They are being monitored from their homes.  I'm sure that they will never be able to locate every person that this person was near.

And this is where the epidemic and panic begin.  We have all seen how fast a cold, stomach virus, flu or strep can pass through a school.  We should all pray that we got lucky this time and no one contracted Ebola from this man.  I'm sure every person in the state of Texas with a cold is worried in the back of their mind that they may have Ebola.  With flu season upon us worrying about a deadly virus that begins as a fever and aches is sure to cause chaos.  I can see ER's across the country flooded with patients fearful that they have contracted Ebola. 

Could this have been prevented?  Short of sealing our borders and not allowing anyone in or out I don't see any way of preventing it every reaching the US.  We had to know that eventually it would be on our door step.  Now that it has arrived, all we can do is hope that the CDC had created a plan for when this did happen and  take extra precautions to prevent the spread of it.  There has been success in treating Ebola with a new experimental drug.  The patient in Texas is listed as being in critical condition.  We can only pray that this drug is successful in fighting this virus and that he survives.  We are left with the standard winter checklist. Wash your hands, stay home when you are sick, avoid sick people, and don't panic.  If you feel that you may have Ebola contact your nearest health clinic.  Do everything possible to prevent spreading the virus to anyone else.

It's not the plague.  It's not the Zombie Apocalypse .  It's a virus and if the right measures are taken, it can be controlled. 

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