The Ebola virus has killed thousands of people across Africa, but as the deadly virus comes to the United States for the first time experts say a wide-scale outbreak is far from likely.
This week an unidentified man in Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola several days after returning to the United States from Liberia. Health officials say as many as 80 people could have been exposed to the virus but so far no others have exhibited symptoms.
News of the outbreak led to panic on Twitter, with tens of thousands of tweets sent within the first few hours of the news breaking, many of them panicked.
One of the most common fears was that other passengers on the man’s plane could have been infected and moved the virus around, but experts say it is not spread that easily.
“It’s very unlikely that (Ebola victims) would be able to spread the disease to fellow passengers,” said Stephan Monroe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
American medical experts add that the Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that American medical facilities are much better equipped to treat and isolate patients who might fall ill.
Ebola isn’t “some mystical pathogen (with) some bizarre mode of transmission,” Bruce Ribner, director of Emory University Hospital’s Infectious Disease Unit, told CNN.
African hospitals are poorly prepared to handle Ebola patients, allowing the virus to spread more rapidly, added Thomas Geisbert, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
The areas in Africa hardest hit by Ebola are “some of the poorest places on planet Earth,” Geisbert said. American hospitals would be able to isolate patients to stop the disease from spreading and could also provide the kind of care that poor African nations cannot.
But even as experts warn that the likelihood of an Ebola outbreak in America is slim, there are still other scares related to the virus. In Toronto, a person with a history of travel to West Africa was put in isolation at a hospital on Thursday after exhibiting flu-like symptoms. And in Texas, close to 100 people have been tested for possible infection.