First contracted by people in West Africa, the Ebola virus has become an epidemic similar only to the 2003 SARS outbreak in China, killing more than 3,400 people and infecting just under 8,000. Most recently, the U.S. had it’s first diagnosed case in Texas, resulting in three people being infected and the first patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, dead.
The first outbreaks of the Ebola virus were in the 1970’s in parts of Central and West Africa. The latest outbreaks, which occurred in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have started to slowly spread in limited cases to the west in Spain and the U.S., prompting media hysterics and a number of Republicans, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, calling to bar travellers coming in from the three most affected West African nations.
The Ebola virus cannot be spread through casual contact between humans, such as holding or touching hands. Instead, the virus lives in bodily fluids such as sweat and blood, as well as vomit and feces. The virus cannot seep through the skin and can only enter the body via the nose, eyes, or an open cut to infect a person, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Symptoms of the virus include “fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat,” followed by “vomiting, diarrhea, and rash,” according to the WHO.
As of press time, 16 people were being treated outside of West Africa for the virus. Most of the people being treated are health and aid workers, including a Spanish nurse at a hospital in Madrid, and a hospital worker who was treating the Liberian patient, who has since died, in Texas.
There is currently no known cure for the virus, but several experimental drugs are being given to patients to treat and possibly get rid of the virus. Public health officials have begun screening travelers at airports who may have come in contact with the Ebola virus for fever and other symptoms.
What do you think about the U.S. bringing people infected with the Ebola virus into the country for treatment? Are you worried that the virus will spread?
Bellene Fisher, 21, English: “Infected people should be treated; some of them are American citizens and deserve treatment. I don’t think the virus will get far.”
Ahsan Naeem, 20, Biology major: “I’m scared the disease might spread. If they’re going to bring infected people into the country, they need to keep them where they won’t be around others.”