Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ebola virus disease now in U.S.

Ebola is perhaps the deadliest disease in the world.  There is no cure, so if you get it there's a 90% chance you will die.  The disease Ebola haemorrhagic fever, or what is now called Ebola virus disease, was first discovered in 1976, and the disease has never made it into the United States, until recently.

It first appears as flu-like symptoms, and then it starts to cause internal bleeding. So, basically, those who get it bleed out, and this ultimately results in organ failure, followed by death.  The only treatment is supportive, and basically involves hydrating patients.

The virus is very infectious, as even one virus can spread the disease.  However, it's not very contagious.  Patients suffering from it bleed out, so anyone exposed to the person may easily come in contact with bodily fluids. Yet it's not contagious because most people don't tough the bodily fluids of other people.

The disease originally only appeared in 1976 in Nzara, Sudan, Yambuka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The disease takes its name from the Ebola River which is situated near the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Presently there is an outbreak in Guinae and Liberia.  Overall, the disease is thought to have killed over 800 people in Africa.

The disease is transmitted from one host to another through bodily fluids, which generally seep from the infected person.  It initially presents as flu-like symptoms here, or Malaria-like symptoms in Africa, although, and, quite often, these are brushed off as minor symptoms treated by home remedies.  Yet as the disease progresses, internal bleeding begins to occur, which ultimately leads to weakness, high fever, intestinal problems, and eventual death.

The disease originally affected wild animals in the tropical rain forests of Central and West Africa, and was transmitted to primitive people living in small villages living near these rain forests.  It is suspected that the original host was fruit bats of the pteropododidae family.

It's thought to have been transmitted to humans by these primitive people handling animals infected with it, such as fruit bats, porcupines, monkeys, and forest antelope.  Then it spreads quickly from one sick person to another, as loved ones yearn to help animals, or their fellow men and women, struck with illness.

This is what occurred recently, as 2 American missionaries in Liberia to help out the needy became infected with the virus.  These infected missionaries have made this issue political in the United States, as many have called for Americans to go there with supplies to help, some have insisted we bring them here for treatment, and others think we should just let them alone.  All arguments are reasonably respectable and understandable, considering the deadliness of this disease, and the ease to which it may spread.

To give you an idea of how easy this disease spreads, doctors taking care of them wear protective gear.  Yet despite this gear, it did not stop one of the doctors from becoming infected. Perhaps the doctor made a mistake somewhere along the line. Perhaps he did not zip up a zipper or he had a hole in his suit.  Perhaps he took off his gloves while handling the patient.  Regardless, it shows how possible it is, how easy it is, for this disease to spread.

President Obama, or at least members of his administration, made the decision to go get these two sick missionaries and bring them here. They were transported via an aircraft specially designed to handle such situations, and are now patients at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

Whatever the motives, political or other (some say the Ebola victims were given a secret remedy), are beyond the concerns of this blog. However, it is our concern to consider the potential consequences of having Ebola in the U.S.

What this action means is that American healthcare professionals will come into contact with these two infected missionaries.

Some say, despite wearing protective gear, if one of them makes even the slightest mistake, the disease will sneak into one of them, and the disease will make its way to Atlanta.  It will fly with a host to New York, drive with another to California, and take the train to Denver.  An epidemic of Ebola virus disease may occur, secretly invading unsuspecting hosts.

Of course the virus could just as easily cross the border by means of one of the people illegally crossing our unprotected border.  People who come to America legally are screened for infectious diseases, but those who come in illegally are not screened. So the risk was present even without these two known infected missionaries being moved to Atlanta.

If the infected come to your hospital you will not be able to deny them treatment. In this way, every physician, nurse, respiratory therapist, x-ray technician, laboratory tech, and nurses aide is at risk for unknowingly coming into contact with the virus, therefore unknowingly assisting the virus in its quest to stay alive.

Considering the severity of this disease, every voice should be heard on this subject, including the words of Donald Trump, who Tweeted: "The U.S. cannot allow Ebola affected people back.  People that go to far away places to help out are great but must suffer the consequences."

He also Tweeted: “Stop the EBOLA patients from entering the U.S. Treat them, at the highest level, over there. THE UNITED STATES HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMS!”

Some people, including actor Whoopie Goldberg and former republican campaign aide, Nicolle Wallace, on ABCs the view, mocked such concerns.  In fact, Wallace said:
Think about who else goes to faraway places, Whoopi. We send our soldiers to faraway places. I think that we should put them in one of Donald Trump's hotels in New Jersey. I don't think they're doing very well. And I think one of his hotels would be a great place.
Such mockery is not helpful, and only discouraged people from speaking out their concerns.

While many Americans are fearful of a potential epidemic that might be caused as a result of Ebola in an Atlanta hospital, The Washington Post reports that some infectious disease experts say that is highly unlikely as the disease is spread by direct contact with blood, urine or feces of the patient, and not by airborne pathogens.  They say diseases like the bird flu is far more contagious, as it can easily be contacted from anyone who coughs or sneezes.

While it's possible, you are highly unlikely to catch the Ebola virus by a hand shake, or by simply being in contact with someone with the disease.  You could be on a plane or train with someone who has the Ebola virus and not be contaminated.

The experts say that the disease is easily spread in Africa because the people there directly handle infected victims, particularly animals both dead and alive, and are readily exposed to bodily fluids.  They also have extreme burial procedures where they bury their own family members and friends.  We do not do those things here, or are highly unlikely to.

Yet if you are a healthcare giver, on the other hand, you may be exposed.  So there lies the concern for us. This may be a good time to review universal precautions, and remind healthcare givers to wear gloves and gowns when the risk of exposure to secretions is eminent.

However, this may not even be necessary, as most hospitals, most healthcare staff, already do this.  Pretty much, the risk of this disease spreading in the U.S. like it did in Africa is highly unlikely, mainly because the preventative measures in place in this country are far better than those in Africa.  So even healthcare givers are highly unlikely to become infected with Ebola.

However, the Ebola virus would never come to the United States on it's own, and it's here now.  The fear is real, as patient who recently returned from a trip to West Africa was admitted to a New York hospital was tested for the Ebola virus, and the CDC admits six people in the U.S. have been tested for Ebola.

People who note their concern over the virus coming here and risking an epidemic should not be made fun of.  This is a serious issue that should entice a serious debate in the arena of ideas.  Because, as CBS News report, the Ebola outbreak may be more serious than thought.