First Ebola case identified in US – should we panic?

First Ebola virus US

An estimated 3,000 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak.

Media outlets have reported today that the deadly Ebola virus has hit US soil. Officials confirmed that an unidentified patient was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on 28th September. The current Ebola outbreak began in Guinea late last year and later spread to Liberia, and then neighbouring countries. An estimated 3,000 people in West Africa have been killed in the worst outbreak of Ebola the world has ever seen.

The patient, who flew from Liberia to the US to visit family on 19 September, arrived with no symptoms and it wasn’t until 24 September that he began to feel unwell. He was finally admitted to the Texas hospital on 28 September, after initially being sent home with antibiotics.

This particular case has sparked fears among the general population since it is the first in which the disease has developed on US soil after the patient had left the infected area. Health officials are currently in the process of identifying those who may have had contact with the patient. These people will then be monitored for 21 days until they can be certain they are clear of the disease.

Ebola is spread via contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood and saliva. As yet there is no proven vaccine or cure. Those infected must be isolated. Symptoms include a high fever, headache, weakness, stomach pain, similar to the flu and they can appear as much as 21 days after original exposure to the virus. The virus fuses itself to human cells and injects its genetic material inside. This material then programmes the cell to replicate the virus, allowing it to spread throughout the body. It is only once the symptoms begin that the virus becomes contagious.

Despite the fact that this is the world’s deadliest outbreak of the virus to date, Tom Frieden from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges no one to panic, “the bottom line here is I have no doubt that we will control this importation, this case of Ebola, so it does not spread widely in this country.” “We will stop it here,” he added.

The Charlotte Missionary, Nancy Writebol, recently recovered from the deadly disease after she was flown back to the States in July. She contracted the disease whilst volunteering in Liberia. A month later she was well enough to able to speak to reporters.

Writebol explained she was grateful that her illness was able to raise awareness all over the world about the suffering in Liberia. This has resulted in an upsurge of aid and money being raised for this cause. Bill Gates is an optimistic advocate in the fight against the epidemic. While others are doubtful, the Microsoft founder is backing the UK and USA’s promises of stepping up the support. The Gates Foundation has recently given $50m to aid operations.