With all the horror stories about the Ebola virus circulating in the news, you might be wondering whether or not it poses any risk to you. The good news is that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ebola virus is not airborne and can only be transmitted through some form of direct contact with an infected person’s blood or body flood, some direct form of contact with a contaminated object (a needle for instance) or some form of direct contact with an infected animal. Furthermore, according to CDC officials cited by Forbes contributor Robert Glatter, MD, the likelihood of the non-airborne Ebola virus “developing into a serious public health risk in the U.S. is small.”
The bad news is that no surefire “vaccine or antiviral medication” capable of treating the non-airborne disease currently exists. However, and this is huge, several news outlets like the Wall Street Journal revealed a few days ago that American scientists have successfully managed to cure a handful of “monkeys inoculated with a legal dose of the Ebola virus” by administering an “experimental drug cocktail” known as ZMapp.
What differentiates this amazing new experimental drug from other experimental Ebola drugs is that it can be “administered up to five days after infection.” Every other experimental drug currently in existence only works if administered “within two days of exposure to the virus.”
The problem is that according to USA Today, ZMapp takes months to manufacture. Furthermore, the last few remaining doses of it were recently used on seven Ebola victims – two Americans, two Liberian health workers, a fifth aid worker, a Spanish priest and a Liberian doctor. The first four survived, the fifth is still being treated and the last two (the Spanish priest and Liberian doctor) died. The premise here is that this drug still needs lots and lots of testing and refinement.
Now fast forward to today. CNN just revealed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have begun testing “an experimental Ebola vaccine” (ZMAPP) in what is described as “the first test of this type of Ebola vaccine in humans.” This is huge because the NIH had not planned to start testing so soon. It’s because of the current crisis that they have effectively accelerated their research schedule.
Regardless, if you happen to be a citizen of the United States, then you for the most part need not worry about becoming a victim of the Ebola virus, which as a reminder is not airborne. The chances of coming in direct contact with either a contaminated object or a contaminated person’s blood/body fluids is practically zilch. If you live in a poverty stricken third-world nation, on the other hand, then yeah, you definitely need to be worried. Why? The following statement made to the Voice of America by Tulane University Ebola virus expert Dr. Daniel Bausch should help explain:
“You go to a hospital in [a third-world nation like] Sierra Leone or Liberia, and it’s not unusual for a healthcare worker to say, ‘We don’t have gloves.’ Or, ‘We don’t have clean needles.’… All of the large outbreaks of Ebola or its sister virus, Marburg, happen in places where social and political unrest over the years have decimated the public health system.”
Thankfully for Americans, the United States (and other first-world nations) have top-of-the-line public health systems, which is why the risk of a non-airborne illness like the Ebola virus exploding across the nation is very, very low.
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