Ebola: Separating Fact from Fiction

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Ebola: Separating Fact from Fiction

Ebola has been recently plaguing the US news media, particularly with the recent reports of infected individuals in the US. However, the media is spreading fear without clarifying the actual scale of the Ebola threat for US citizens.

Ebola is not a new disease. Since its discovery about 40 years ago there have been about 25 documented outbreaks in African countries. About 2500 people were infected during each of these outbreaks. When compared to other worldwide diseases, this makes Ebola a very rare disease. (For example, compare that to the 2012 U.S. outbreak of whooping cough when nearly 50,000 people got sick in one year).

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has sickened almost 9,000 people since March, killing about half of them, making it the worst outbreak of the virus in history, according to the World Health Organization. This outbreak is of greater significance than others because it has spread through multiple countries. The first man to be diagnosed on US soil had travelled from Liberia to visit family in the US. Two nurses who had treated him are not infected with the disease.

Public knowledge surrounding these events has been focused on the people who may have had contact with an Ebola patient, and the potential risks of them boarding flights and coming into contact with the public. Thus many people are afraid of a widespread outbreak in the US. An important question for the public to consider is what are the actual chances that coming in contact with an infected individual not showing symptoms will result in spread of the disease?

The issue of concern is that people can go 21 days after infection without symptoms, making the public believe that infected individuals may move around the US without knowing it and spread the virus. Yet, people with Ebola must have symptoms to spread the disease. Thus coming into contact with someone who does not have symptoms but has contracted the disease will not cause it to spread. In order to become infected a person must come into contact with the bodily fluids of a person with symptoms and then the virus must enter through a cut, broken skin, or eyes, nose, mouth, or another mucus membrane.

What are the odds of survival? There is no cure for Ebola, but if a patient is isolated early and monitored until symptoms resolve the possibility of survival is high. The reason the death toll in Africa remains relatively high is because the region does not have the same access to quality medical care as we do in the US.

For more information please visit: http://www.healthgrades.com/conditions/ebola-separating-fact-from-fiction?p=2

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