From Top Health Officials: What You Should Know About Ebola In The U.S.

Ebola has made it to the United States, and after hearing the reports of how the disease has spread in Africa and caused so many deaths, it’s understandable that many people are frightened.

But top infectious disease experts are confident that the presence of Ebola in the United States can and will be contained.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Health, says, “People who are scared, I say, ‘We don’t take lightly your fear. We respect it. We understand it.'”

But he then emphasized the fact that the United States is very different from the African nations that are being ravaged by the disease. Those countries, he explains, have fragile health care systems which have been overwhelmed by Ebola. Here, with much more adequate resources, scientists know how to stop the Ebola virus from spreading.

Simply put, in the U.S., Fauci maintains, “We won’t have an outbreak.”

Of course, that does not mean the patients who have been diagnosed with Ebola so far will be the only ones, but that is still a far cry from an outbreak.

Here is what you need to know about Ebola in the United States.

1. Ebola does not spread easily. It is not an airborne virus. Instead, Ebola is carried in the bodily fluids of a sick person, like vomit, blood, urine, semen, or saliva. Another person can catch the disease by contact of those fluids and then getting the germs in his or her own body — like through a cut in the skin. Also, the body fluids aren’t contagious until the person actually begins to feel sick. In West Africa, one of the reasons Ebola has spread so quickly is because of family members who nursed their own sick and tended their own dead, and because of doctors and nurses who, working under horrible conditions without proper equipment, unknowingly spread the disease.

It is very unlikely you would catch Ebola by, say, sharing a bus or a plane with an infected person. In fact, the director of the Centers for Disease Control says there are zero real-world instances of anyone catching Ebola this way.

2. The initial symptoms of Ebola are similar to many other illnesses, including fever, headaches, body aches, and stomach pain. These symptoms are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding.

3. With precaution and knowledge, any hospital in the United States should be able to handle a potential Ebola patient. Despite the elaborate biohazard suits worn by doctors to treat the first patients stricken by Ebola, as well as the special isolation units the first patients have been placed in, the CDC says it’s actually fine to place anyone suspected of having Ebola in a regular, private room with its own bathroom. Emergency room staff also routinely treat patients with infectious diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis, and so they should already be safeguarded against potential contraction of Ebola. The CDC does encourage doctors and nurses to wear gowns, masks, and eye protection around any suspected Ebola patient, just to be safe.

4. The media will continue to cover the Ebola crisis and the presence of Ebola in the United States. But remember that, when the media reports about a suspected Ebola case, the CDC has been in consultation with more than 100 suspected Ebola cases recently. Only about a dozen were serious enough to merit the Ebola blood tests, and only one of those actually had Ebola.

5. U.S. health officials are doing a lot to prevent more people with Ebola from entering the United States. These measures include people being checked at airports in the Ebola-hit African nation for fever, as well as asking them if they have had any contact with anyone who has been infected with Ebola. Airlines are also being required to watch for any sick travelers and, if a traveler is ill, they are to alert authorities before landing. The CDC is also continuously reminding doctors and hospitals to remember the possibility of Ebola, and to isolate and test any sick persons they suspect of having the virus.

Americans don’t often understand how quickly and easily a disease like Ebola can spread in the poorest places on earth, yet be contained in a place like the U.S., says Ebola expert Thomas Geisbert. He explains that “in countries where inadequate health systems have been overwhelmed by the virus, people are dying in their homes, outside clinics that are too overfilled to take them, and sometimes in the streets. Health workers have been attacked by panicked residents.”

The situation in the United States is much different, and officials will continue the measures that have stopped past outbreaks. With the knowledge and resource the U.S. has, Ebola in the U.S. is a much different situation than Ebola in Africa.

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