Ebola - Here, There and Everywhere

Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Ebola - Here, There and Everywhere

image by: Army Medicine

I wouldn’t be worried to sit next to someone with the Ebola virus on the Tube, as long as they don’t vomit on you or something - Peter Piot, co-discoverer of Ebola 1976

The World Health Organization is calling the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa an “international public health emergency” because it is the largest, longest and most deadly in history.  To make matters worse, it is happening in war-ravaged, impoverished countries that do not have the resources to contain the outbreak on their own.

In addition, any drugs or vaccines being developed to treat people infected with the disease are in the very early stages. Which means they have not been tested on humans and may not be safe or effective.  Even if the FDA allows the manufacturers to bypass the clinical trials stage, the drugs cannot be produced quickly enough to have any impact on the current epidemic.

The Ebola virus is the most deadly in the world.  Symptoms include fever, sore throat, body aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. As the disease quickly progresses, it impairs kidney and liver function and leads to both external and internal bleeding.  This means that the body begins to hemorrhage on the inside causing blood to seep from the eyes, nose, and ears. 

Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days, so symptoms may not develop before then and the patient is not contagious.  However, once a person does exhibit symptoms, they are highly contagious.  Ebola has an overall death rate of up to 90%.  Scary.

Although contagious, the good news is that Ebola can only be transmitted through direct contact with blood and body fluids, or through contact with contaminated surfaces, needles and medical equipment.  The bad news is that doctors, nurses, and volunteers working directly with Ebola patients are more likely to contract the virus because of their continual exposure to body fluids and contaminated surfaces. 

Alexis Moens, a representative from Doctors Without Borders who is currently working in a West African hospital said, “This is a dangerous place for us.  There’s no system in place; there’s no isolation. You make mistakes here you get infected. You get infected, you spread it to other patients and then you bring it home to your family.”

Why is this Outbreak so Wide Spread?

Initially missionaries and volunteer health workers at the site of the first outbreak in March didn’t think they would be involved in the care of Ebola patients.  But by June, they realized they had no choice, said Ken Isaacs, vice president of international programs and government relations for Samaritan's Purse. 

According to Isaacs, the CDC and other government agencies were slow to respond to the outbreak.  He said that healthcare workers in the “hot zones” have been calling and pleading with the U.S. to help them control the spread of Ebola to no avail.

Isaacs said, “In mid-June, I began speaking privately with U.S. officials telling them that the disease was spiraling out of control and more needed to be done immediately. He said he got no response.  “The fact that the world would allow relief agencies and an overwhelmed Ministry of Health shoulder this burden alone testifies to the lack of serious attention the epidemic was given.”  Hence the rapid spread.

But then two American’s got sick…and the U.S. took notice.  The CDC raised their emergency response to level 1, which is the highest level of emergency response available and vowed to “send in more workers.”  Pathetically, they will only send 12 people and no date for their arrival has been set. 

So, because of their inaction more than 1,700 people have been infected with Ebola, nearly 1,000 people have died, and it has spread to 5 countries making it the global epidemic it is.

To say that the medical charities, Medicines Sans Frontieres, Serving in Mission USA, the Red Cross, and Samaritan's Purse are in over their heads is an understatement. These charities are under-staffed, under-funded, overwhelmed, and dealing with a disease in a region of Africa that has never dealt with Ebola before.

And, because of the deadly conditions and lack of support in West Africa 160 health care workers have been infected with Ebola and more than 80 have died.  This has forced Samaritan's Purse and SIM USA to announce that they are evacuating all non-essential personnel immediately. 

This will only make matters worse as officials are estimating that the current outbreak will continue until at least the end of the year because: 1) they are still trying to identify the 30,000 people that may have come in contact with the first victim; 2) the lack of infection control in place; and 3) unsafe burial practices.

Ebola can be stopped but it won't be until healthcare workers get the support they desperately need.  This includes, your basics like personal protective gear, goggles, gloves, hand sanitizer, and money to buy the supplies we have readily available at our local drug store…

Do you want to help? You should, because it’s only a matter of time before Ebola arrives on our doorstep.  Oh, wait.  It already did. Twice.

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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