According to the Oxford dictionary, “Ebola is an infectious and generally fatal disease marked by fever and severe internal bleeding, spread through contact with infected body fluids by a filovirus ( Ebola virus), whose normal host species is unknown.”
Perhaps the most frightening part of the definition of the Ebola virus is that “the normal host species is unknown.” This has become prominent in the past months. While the first known case of Ebola was reported in 1976 in the Republic of Congo, the host species of the Ebola virus is unknown to doctors.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak, as it’s called, has caused a worldwide frenzy. While the virus recently made it to the American home front when a man from Texas was diagnosed in September, Ebola has already hit five countries. The virus has killed more than 2,500 people worldwide and has infected over 5,500 as of Sept. 19 according to the World Health Organization.
After research from scientists and doctors worldwide, it’s revealed that Ebola starts out as an infection with a strain of the virus. The symptoms start out as that of the flu – fever, throwing up, etc. The end result is bleeding out of multiple orifices on the body, including the eyes.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids of those carrying the virus. This puts doctors and healthcare workers at an increased risk. It is not spread through food, air or insects like other diseases.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States. The Texas man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who was the first to be diagnosed with the disease in the United States, passed away on October 8. Two healthcare workers that were in contact with the patient also tested positive for the Ebola virus. The first healthcare worker to test positive for Ebola, Nina Pham, was tested and treated and on Oct. 24 was released.
The second healthcare worker, Amber Vinson, 29, began to show symptoms of the Ebola virus on Oct. 15. She was transferred to a hospital in Atlanta, Ga. but was released Oct. 28 and confirmed as Ebola-free.
The third diagnosed Ebola patient was Dr. Craig Spencer from New York, who has recently returned from Guinea where he was serving with the Doctors Without Borders organization. His diagnosis was confirmed on Oct. 24. He is now held and monitored at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
“Any case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States raises concerns and any death is too many,” the CDC said. “Medical and public health professionals across the country have been preparing to respond to the possibility of additional cases.”
One of the hospitals that is preparing to respond and host Ebola patients is Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Wash. According to KIRO News, Harborview is the fifth hospital in the United States that has agreed to accept and treat any American Ebola patients that are evacuated from West Africa.
Harborview officials don’t currently anticipate anymore Ebola patients, but they are prepping staff and facilities to host them.
In an interview with KIRO News, an associate medical director at Harborview, Timothy Dellit, says that it’s a necessity that they are prepared.
“I think all hospitals have to be aware that we have a small world,” Dellit said. “People travel, so any hospital could have someone who has traveled to an endemic area.”
Currently, no vaccines or medicines have been FDA-approved or made available to the public. Those who recover from Ebola are suspected to have immunity from the disease for up to 10 years. In response to this, a former Ebola patient has given a blood transfusion to Nina Pham. It is still unknown if effects of this transfusion are what caused her to be cured.
The CDC recommends practicing careful hygiene and avoiding the body fluids of those infected with Ebola as the best prevention. They also recommend monitoring those who return from West Africa for a period of 21 days to prevent the spread of Ebola.
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