Calm Down: The Ebola Scare

“Ebola does in ten days what it take AIDS ten years to do” –Barry and David Zimmerman (Killer Germs)

There have been many different stories and fears circling the world since the outbreak of Ebola reached national headlines. Not everything you hear on Fox News and Channel 2 is accurate. While there is cause for concern, many things have been taken out of context and blown way out of proportion. Hey, I’ve got a joke for you.

This current outbreak of Ebola is the deadliest to date, but here is some other history on Ebola. The disease was previously referred to as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and first entered the scene in July of 1976 in what is now South Sudan. The outbreak occurred very quickly, and had a mortality rate of just over 50% (killing 150 of the 284 infected). Not long after the outbreak in July another occurred in September of the same year in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Ebola Zaire was a different strain and had a mortality rate of 90% (killing 325 of the 358 infected). There were many similarities between these two outbreaks. They ended almost as quickly as they began, mainly because the high mortality rate did not allow for a high transference rate. There was another outbreak in 1995 and again in 2000. Both of these outbreaks occurred over a month long period and killed about 200 people a piece. Unfortunately, researchers have not been able to identify the natural host of Ebola in order to root out a treatment or create an eradication plan.

The symptoms of Ebola vary in severity in the beginning stages of infection. People normally become symptomatic within 2 to 21 days after infection. Ebola starts out similar to the common cold and flu but if you start bleeding out of every orifice, please seek medical attention immediately. Much like the common cold and flu, symptoms can include: headache, general malaise and a low grade fever, under 101.5oF. Later into infection, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and, oh yeah, bleeding out of every orifice. Click here for complete list of symptoms.

Transmission of Ebola is not as easy! Ebola is NOT airborne. Let me repeat, EBOLA IS NOT AIRBORNE! In the United States it is much, MUCH, easier to contain Ebola. Transmission of Ebola occurs through the DIRECT contact of an infected person’s blood, organs, or bodily fluids. A contagious person would have to vampire bite a victim to transmit the disease. However, getting pricked with an infected person’s needle, or getting their blood on you can also transmit the disease. In Western Africa, where the Ebola outbreak is rampant, much of the transmission occurs in hospitals. Poorer countries don’t have the funding to use sterile materials on each patient. Hospitals are largely responsible for mini-epidemics; i.e. using the same needle multiple times. For a map of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, click here.

Ebola, although deadly viral disease, is treatable. That being said, antibiotics are useless against Ebola. Currently, doctors have to treat the symptoms rather than the disease, so they will prescribe re-hydration treatments to replenish the fluids that are lost. There have been many potential treatments including drug therapies, and blood transfusions that have also proved effective. Other than treatments for the disease, there has also been much research in the prevention of the disease. According to the CDC in Atlanta, there are potential vaccines that are currently undergoing safety trials, as well as ZMapp the controversial drug used during this outbreak. For more information on Ebola visit, check out the CDC website.

References:

  • “Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Oct. 2014
  • “Ebola Virus Disease.” WHO. Would Health Organization. 2014.
  • Zimmerman, Barry E., and David J. Zimmerman. Killer Germs: Microbes and Diseases That Threaten Humanity. Chicago: Contemporary, 2003. Print.

Kasey AndersonKasey Anderson is an undergraduate student studying biology at the University of Georgia. She spends most of her time studying infectious diseases but she’ll take time off to whop hinnies on the tennis court.  You can email Kasey at kasey.anderson25@uga.edu.