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Dr Russ Blog - Ebola - Should You Be Worried?
Ebola - Should You Be Worried?
Created on 8/1/2014

"Ebola virus" - the term doesn't appear in everyday news often, but when it does it raises very real concerns.

Of late, the news has been filled with Ebola virus information.

An outbreak in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has grown into one of the worst in history, if not the worst. Over 700 people have died from the infection.

There is no known effective treatment against Ebola virus. Treatment consists of what is termed "supportive care" - primarily making certain that people don't get dehydrated.

Supportive care in the U.S. is easily accessible for most people - that is not the case in some of the more remote areas of West Africa where Ebola virus has spread.

Thus, the people in West Africa are at a great disadvantage compared to Americans - they simply don't have access to the same types of basic, supportive medical care we often take for granted.

That means their chances of surviving infection with Ebola virus are likely much lower than if they were here in the U.S.

Concerns in the U.S. have grown, however, because a person with Ebola is being transported to America for treatment.

Could Ebola become a problem in the U.S.A.?

Unlikely - that's what the exerts say.

Transport of the person with Ebola to the U.S. is being done under extraordinarily strict control to keep the risk of spread as close to zero as possible.

Even so, the world has gotten smaller - world travel is commonplace. People from America often go to Africa, and vice-versa.

Could someone unknowingly bring the Ebola virus to our soil?

Yes, that is possible. A person can have the Ebola virus in their system yet not have symptoms for 2-21 days.

BUT - a person with Ebola is contagious only once they have symptoms.

Symptoms seen with Ebola virus infection include, among others,:

- fever

- headache

- body aches

- nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

Sounds a little like the flu during flu season.

In its late stages, infection with Ebola virus has also been associated with bleeding inside and outside the body.

*** Here is the important stuff: if you or someone you know has recently traveled to West Africa, and if symptoms of "the flu" appear suddenly, you should immediately contact your doctor and / or call your local Health Department for instructions on how best to obtain medical attention.

One of the most important aspects of care around the Ebola virus is quarantining / separating a person with the infection from others. In fact, medical workers must wear specialized suits to prevent spread of the infection to others.

Keep in mind that the Ebola virus does NOT spread through the air, as the flu virus does - Ebola spreads through contact with infected bodily fluids, such as blood and saliva, perhaps through breaks in the skin.

Thus, casual contact with a person who has the virus is unlikely to result in your getting the disease - thankfully.

Hopefully a vaccine against Ebola will be developed soon.

For the time being, the best things you can do with respect to the Ebola virus outbreak are:

- keep those affected in your thoughts and prayers

- contact your doctor or local Health Department if you or someone you know has recently traveled to West Africa and flu symptoms have suddenly developed (don't wait)

- otherwise, try not to worry. Although this story is all over the news, the odds of there being an Ebola virus outbreak in the U.S. are very small. 

Here's hoping the outbreak ends soon, and that those who are ill recover fully.

Be well.
Dr. Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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