Ebola scare reaches America

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, died Wednesday. His death was confirmed by the Dallas hospital where he was being treated.

“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 a.m.,” Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said on Facebook. “Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle. Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing. We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time.”

Duncan, a Liberian national, arrived in Dallas to marry his longtime girlfriend and reunite with their 19-year-old son. Shortly after, he began having troubling symptoms, according to Associated Press.

After initially being sent home from the ER, Duncan returned to the hospital where he was then diagnosed with Ebola.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was informed of Duncan’s case, and shortly thereafter identified about 100 people he may have come into contact with and is currently monitoring them for Ebola symptoms.

But Duncan’s case has only allowed for even greater media coverage of the topic that has caught fire over the past few months.

Top stories on major news outlets are all speckled with at least one mention of the hemorrhagic fever.  

Politicians and celebrities also partake in the discussion, adding their own quips and stances to the issue. In an Aug. 1 tweet, Donald Trump said:

“Stop the EBOLA patients from entering the U.S., Treat them, at the highest level, over there. THE UNITED STATES HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMS!”

Sen. Ted Cruz resonates Trump’s sentiment in recent criticisms of the Obama administration’s and FAA’s failure to shut down flights to and from West Africa to ensure keeping out anyone infected.

“The first thing we should do is look seriously at shutting down air travel coming from areas that have been hit by the outbreak. I think the risk for passengers, for pilots, for flight attendants, for flight crews are too significant right now,” Cruz told KOKE-FM.

Earlier this week, Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey told a news conference that Ebola-related stress and fear may be more damaging to the community than the virus itself.

“This isn’t West Africa. This is a very modern city,” Lakey said.  “We don’t have the level poverty that they have in West Africa that is conducive to the spread of the disease.”

So, what should Americans know about Ebola? What makes America more resistant, or perhaps just less vulnerable, to the outbreaks seen in Africa? What should Americans really know about the hemorrhagic virus that has directed such an international response?

CDC reports Ebola is a rare and deadly disease that may be contracted by humans and primates.

The most severely infected countries include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which are severely stricken by poverty, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

Due to a scarcity of national revenue and infrastructure, these countries lack many resources, leaving them vulnerable to the virus.

First and foremost, WHO reports these countries lack communications infrastructure, creating difficulty for health officials to spread the word about Ebola – they often rely on personal contact with villages, which in turn, could spread its reach.

Americans, however, have much greater access to information. CDC on Twitter alone has 384,000 followers.

The health care systems of these countries have proven weak as well.

Daniel Bausch, an associate professor who is working on the Ebola response at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said it is not unusual these hospitals in Sierra Leone or Guinea run out of even basic equipment, such as gloves.

Bausch, a virologist who has worked closely with Ebola for quite a few years, told NPR the biggest challenge has been a lack of personnel available to aid in response and care of the infected. 

“If you look at Liberia, throughout the civil war, the medical school was closed,” Bausch said. “Since the civil war (it) has graduated something like an average of 10 medical doctors a year; probably half of them, I’ll speculate, are drawn off by the brain drain and working outside the country.”

Bausch explained the difficulties in recruiting workers in the effort exist not only because low numbers of in-country education, but population decimation the infection has already done as well as its low-promising financial backing.

“No one works for free, especially for a dangerous job. And so we need to get the money flowing, we need to get the right training for those people,” Bausch said.

Bausch also said the disease appears not to be airborne. 

AP reports Duncan was caring for a 19-year-old neighbor while in Liberia. Marthalene Williams began having convulsions after days of stomach-pain complaints.

Duncan, along with several of her family members, rushed her to the hospital where she later died.

Those who had cared for Williams fell ill themselves, many dying within just weeks. The disease is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of those infected, especially blood, stool and vomit, according to WHO. 

In that case, a healthy individual may contract Ebola if broken skin or mucous membranes contact soiled clothing, bed sheets and used needles of an infected person.

Despite its ability to live on surfaces up to six days, WHO reports chances of contracting it this way are extraordinarily low. Direct and close contact provides the highest risk of infection.

WebMD reported the virus becomes contagious only after it is symptomatic.

Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat are the most common initial symptoms.

These are often followed by diarrhea, vomiting, rash and often internal and/or external bleeding.

Anyone with these symptoms or suspecting to have come in contact with the Ebola virus is advised to seek medical care immediately.

There is no licensed medicine or vaccine for Ebola, but treatments include isolation and keeping patients hydrated with intravenous fluids since patients suffer most from dehydration.

Obama reportedly said in a speech that information combined with strict CDC protocol will help America prevent outbreak.

“If they have the right information and they’re following those protocols, then this is something that we’re going to be able to make sure does not have the kind of impact here in the United States that a lot of people are worried about,” Obama said. “But that requires everybody to make sure that they stay informed.  Most particularly, we’ve got to make sure that our health workers are informed.”

Obama also said he views Ebola as a national defense issue and has Department of Defense (DOD) on board, addressing fears such as the ones expressed by Cruz and Trump.

Obama said DOD will perform additional passenger screening and feels confident that the chances of an epidemic outbreak are extraordinarily low. 

However, Obama urged the U.N. to stimulate international response to Ebola in order to quell its spread any further.

“Countries that think that they can sit on the sidelines and just let the United States do it, that will result in a less effective response, a less speedy response, and that means that people die, and it also means that the potential spread of the disease beyond these areas in West Africa becomes more imminent,” Obama said.

Despite all this information, Tom Frieden, president of CDC, still gives Americans fair warning that the risks are not completely nullified:

“We wish we could, but can’t get to zero risk here in US without controlling the #Ebola epidemic in W. Africa,” Frieden said in an Oct. 7 tweet.

Earlier this week, Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey told a news conference that Ebola-related stress and fear may be more damaging to the community than the virus itself.

“This isn’t West Africa. This is a very modern city. We don’t have the level poverty that they have in West Africa that is conducive to the spread of the disease,” Lakey said.

So, what should Americans know about Ebola? What makes America more resistant, or perhaps just less vulnerable, to the outbreaks seen in Africa? What should Americans really know about the hemorrhagic virus that has directed such an international response?

CDC reports Ebola is a rare and deadly disease that may be contracted by humans and primates.

The most severely infected countries include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which are severely stricken by poverty, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

Due to a scarcity of national revenue and infrastructure, these countries lack many resources, leaving them vulnerable to the virus.

First and foremost, WHO reports these countries lack communications infrastructure, creating difficulty for health officials to spread the word about Ebola – they often rely on personal contact with villages, which in turn, could spread its reach.

Americans, however, have much greater access to information. CDC on Twitter alone has 384,000 followers.

The health care systems of these countries have proven weak as well.

Daniel Bausch, an associate professor who is working on the Ebola response at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said it is not unusual these hospitals in Sierra Leone or Guinea run out of even basic equipment, such as gloves.

Bausch, a virologist who has worked closely with Ebola for quite a few years, told NPR the biggest challenge has been a lack of personnel available to aid in response and care of the infected.

“If you look at Liberia, throughout the civil war, the medical school was closed,” Bausch said. “Since the civil war (it) has graduated something like an average of 10 medical doctors a year; probably half of them, I’ll speculate, are drawn off by the brain drain and working outside the country.”

Bausch explained the difficulties in recruiting workers in the effort exist not only because low numbers of in-country education, but population decimation the infection has already done as well as its low-promising financial backing.

“No one works for free, especially for a dangerous job. And so we need to get the money flowing, we need to get the right training for those people,” Bausch said.

Bausch also said the disease appears not to be airborne.

AP reports Duncan was caring for a 19-year-old neighbor while in Liberia. Marthalene Williams began having convulsions after days of stomach-pain complaints.

Duncan, along with several of her family members, rushed her to the hospital where she later died.

Those who had cared for Williams fell ill themselves, many dying within just weeks. The disease is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of those infected, especially blood, stool and vomit according to WHO.

In that case, a healthy individual may contract Ebola if broken skin or mucous membranes contact soiled clothing, bed sheets and used needles of an infected person.

Despite its ability to live on surfaces up to six days, WHO reports chances of contracting it this way are extraordinarily low. Direct and close contact provides the highest risk of infection.

WebMD reported the virus becomes contagious only after it is symptomatic. Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat are the most common initial symptoms. These are often followed by diarrhea, vomiting, rash and often internal and/or external bleeding.

Anyone with these symptoms or suspecting to have come in contact with the Ebola virus is advised to seek medical care immediately.

There is no licensed medicine or vaccine for Ebola, but treatments include isolation and keeping patients hydrated with intravenous fluids since patients suffer most from dehydration.

Obama reportedly said in a speech that information combined with strict CDC protocol will help America prevent outbreak.

“If they have the right information and they’re following those protocols, then this is something that we’re going to be able to make sure does not have the kind of impact here in the United States that a lot of people are worried about,” Obama said. “But that requires everybody to make sure that they stay informed.  Most particularly, we’ve got to make sure that our health workers are informed.”

Obama also said he views Ebola as a national defense issue and has Department of Defense (DOD) on board, addressing fears such as the ones expressed by Cruz and Trump.

Obama said DOD will perform additional passenger screening and feels confident that the chances of an epidemic outbreak are extraordinarily low.

However, Obama urged the U.N. to stimulate international response to Ebola in order to quell its spread any further.

“Countries that think that they can sit on the sidelines and just let the United States do it, that will result in a less effective response, a less speedy response, and that means that people die, and it also means that the potential spread of the disease beyond these areas in West Africa becomes more imminent,” Obama said.

Despite all this information, Tom Frieden, president of CDC, still gives Americans fair warning that the risks aren’t completely nullified:

“We wish we could, but can’t get to zero risk here in US without controlling the #Ebola epidemic in W. Africa,” Frieden said in an Oct. 7 tweet.

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