First off, let me preface this by saying that Ebola is a horrific disease. I would wish it on no one. If you should ever contract it, your only hope
is that with time and good supportive care, your body and immune system will be strong enough to outlast it as it runs its course and ravages your
body. And you will likely wish you were dead more than once during the process.
That being said I want to highly some very good reasons why, while we should all be worried and keep an eye on it, none of us should live in fear of
the same situation that is currently occurring in Africa. It is highly unlikely that Ebola, even if it reaches our shores, would have the same freedom
to run rampant here that it does there for several reasons, and I'm going to try to outline those.
Let me start by saying yes, Ebola is only as far away from anywhere in the world as one plane flight.
The virus — which has an incubation period of a few days to three weeks — could easily travel to the USA through infected travelers, says Michael
Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
"A case very well could fly out of Africa, only to be detected in some distant country," says Osterholm, who served as an adviser to the George W.
Bush administration on bioterrorism.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, understand that Ebola is NOT anywhere near as contagious as your average cold or flu.
While Ebola is a fearsome disease, it's actually much harder to spread than respiratory infections, such as influenza or measles ... people cannot
spread the Ebola virus simply by sneezing or coughing.
Remember, the whole premise behind the movie Outbreak
was that an Ebola-type virus became airborne in the manner of the common cold or flu -
through sneezing or coughing. Aerosolized droplets do not spread Ebola, but if someone drowning in their own bloody vomit were to spew across your
face (or in the can you were next in line to use), that would be different. The reality is that the presence of the virus in just saliva is much lower
than in other body fluids, so it's harder to get it from just saliva.
But Ebola does spread readily through body fluids, such as blood and saliva, Osterholm says. On a plane, a sick person could potentially contaminate
the bathroom if he or she vomits or has diarrhea.
We're also seeing the virus now spreading to the health care workers, themselves. This has to do with several factors that have to do with their
working conditions. These are countries with poor facilities, limited facilities, little to no local health care worker support and just a general
lack of everything.
The virus also has spread to health care workers in Africa, where six or seven patients may share a single hospital room. Hospitals in developing
countries also may lack certain infection-control measures — such as special containers to dispose of syringes — that are standard in U.S.
facilities, Osterholm says. Wearing full-body protective garments – commonly called "moon suits" – is also more of a challenge in open-air
clinics, because the restrictive outfits can cause people to quickly overheat.
More help is needed from around the world, Morse said. He received an e-mail today from a friend who is treating patients in the region and working
12- to 24-hour days. "When people tell me they're working flat-out 20 hours a day, obviously more resources are needed," he said.
The region needs more health care workers, especially those well trained in infection control procedures, he said, more equipment to keep health care
workers and family members safe while treating patients, and more training for the general public about how to avoid and cope with the virus. "With
something this size, it's obvious that we're under resourced right now," Morse said.
So they're understaffed, have not enough equipment, are working in relatively primitive conditions for handling something of this nature, and what
protective gear they have they can't use without it endangering their health, too, and after a while, anyone working like this will get sloppy and
start making mistakes compounded by their inability to use the proper gear without risking heat collapse. It's a wonder they made it to July when
this started in March.
Now, to the second and more insidious problem: the Africans themselves. They don't trust modern medicine. Period. Stop. End of sentence. Imagine
being a modern medical professional sent back in time to try to combat the Black Death. You'd be overwhelmed and confronted with problems of this
nature, too. It would be a relatively lost cause ... and we even have a cure for the disease!
Ebola has spread in Africa partly because of religious customs, in which family members wash the bodies of deceased relatives to prepare them for
And that's the tamest way to put it. If you've been following the news, you are aware of the manhunt in Sierra Leone where a patient's family
"kidnapped" her from the hospital to take her to a traditional healer? She died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
Amadu Sisi, a senior doctor at King Harman hospital in the capital Freetown, from which the patient was taken, said on Saturday that police found her
in the house of a healer.
Her family refused to hand her over and a struggle ensued with police, who finally retrieved her and sent her to hospital, he said.
"She died in the ambulance on the way to another hospital," Sisi said.
How many of her family are now infected ... or the police ... or the healer ... or others? If she died, she was clearly in the later stages of the
Police were guarding the country's main Ebola hospital in Kenema in the West African country's remote east on Saturday, where dozens are receiving
treatment for the virus.
Thousands had gathered outside the clinic the day before, threatening to burn it down and remove the patients. Residents said police fired tear gas to
disperse the crowds and that a 9-year-old boy was shot in the leg by a police bullet.
The protest was sparked by a former nurse who had told a crowd at a nearby fish market that "Ebola was unreal and a gimmick aimed at carrying out
And you have people threatening to burn down the only health facilities they have because they are sure that the people inside are eating the bodies.
Would this happen in a country familiar with modern medicine? And if you think it would, would it happen quickly enough to allow a plague of Ebola of