Is it time to worry about ebola yet? Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard about ebola and how it has made its way to America. A few weeks ago a man named Thomas Eric Duncan flew to the US from Liberia. At the time he did not have a fever or any symptoms of the deadly disease but within days of arriving in the US Duncan started experiencing symptoms consistent with ebola and reported to the hospital. Even though he told hospital staff he was from Liberia, a place battling ebola right now, he was turned away. He returns a few days later with worsening symptoms including projectile vomiting and diarrhea. Duncan dies 9 days later and becomes known as patient zero.
Since then two nurses have tested positive for ebola and are being treated. The CDC is on offense and the news media is having a full on panic about the disease.
Is it time to worry about ebola yet?
Let’s look at a few other facts about ebola before we start to panic.
1. Ebola is only contagious when an infected person is experiencing symptoms of the disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and eventually bleeding out through multiple orifices. The problem is ebola starts out like a lot of viruses that are common this time of year.
2. Ebola is not airborne – yet. Currently you can only get ebola if you are in direct contact with the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. It is not airborne at the moment but viruses mutate all the time so it could happen.
3. Ebola has an incubation period of between 2 and 21 days.
4. There is no treatment or cure for ebola only supportive therapy is currently available though there have been encouraging signs for giving the antibodies from recovered ebola patients to current sufferers.
5. Ebola has a high mortality rate. Sort of. In West Africa where the disease has killed over 4000 people the mortality rate is about 70%. 7 out of 10 people who present with ebola will die from it. The CDC and other Western doctors believe the mortality rate to be less in the US because of the sanitary conditions of the hospitals and that in the US we outsource funeral preparations – we don’t prepare the dead ourselves and thus never come in contact with their bodily fluids.
So, knowing those facts does it mean we should panic now that a second nurse has tested positive for the ebola virus?
The short answer is no. Unless you are in direct contact with someone with ebola the odds of you coming down with it are pretty slim. Could we have an outbreak of the ebola virus? Sure, and we probably will. Many officials are warning that more will become infected, most likely hospital workers like the nurses who have tested positive so far. Even if we have a larger outbreak of ebola the disease will likely burn out rather quickly. Because if the short incubation period and because you can only pass it along while suffering from symptoms the disease will not become the pandemic that other infectious diseases have become. For example AIDS has a much longer incubation period and someone can spread it without knowing they are even infected. It’s not like that with ebola.
Still, ebola is pretty scary, shouldn’t we panic just a little?
Sure, fear isn’t a bad thing and if that means you wash your hands more often that’s a good thing. However, worrying about ebola isn’t going to change much of anything. There isn’t much you can do if it becomes a full on outbreak so worrying isn’t really going to help. My suggestion is to watch the Walking Dead from the beginning and make a few preparations in the event of a worst case scenario. Have some bottled water on hand, have some packaged food on hand, have a plan to get out of the city because that’s always where the shit goes down first. Know where your loved ones are and buddy up with some badass people if you aren’t willing to push a knife through someone’s skull.