The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been a huge cause for concern for the medical community and the population at large. It has so far claimed over 1,800 lives and is the largest outbreak of the disease in history. While the epidemic has raged on for months, most Americans did not know about it until infected patients, for the first time ever, were brought into the United States for treatment earlier this summer. Here are some important facts about the disease and how it has affected the United States.
What Is Ebola?
Ebola is a type of highly contagious, highly dangerous disease called hemorrhagic fever. Symptoms of this disease include vomiting, fever, muscle aches, headaches, diarrhea, internal and external bleeding, and eventually impaired functioning of the liver and kidneys.
It is transmitted through bodily fluids. Most people who have gotten infected have been in close proximity to other infected patients and have come in contact with their sweat, blood, vomit, or other bodily fluids. Some have also become infected by being treated with contaminated needles, especially in poorer parts of the world where hospital sanitation isn’t as good. The disease is highly fatal, killing anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of all infected patients.
The Spread of Ebola to the U.S.
Most Americans were not aware of the most recent outbreak until two Americans, a physician and a medical worker, were brought to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both had become infected while working the outbreak in West Africa.
Upon their arrival, the news media flooded the airwaves with stories that raised the collective awareness of the Ebola virus and brought more attention to how Americans may be affected. Fortunately, both infected patients were treated with new, experimental drugs designed to combat the virus and were released from the hospital. Since then, two more patients have been brought to the U.S. for treatment.
Although the outbreak continues to rage in West Africa, there is hope that experimental new vaccines and medicines can be used to stem the flood of new cases and inoculate those in vulnerable areas to the virus.
To learn more about the ebola virus, ask our panel of doctors.