Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Food for Thought #24

Ebola in the United States

Well, I was going to talk about science-fiction ship design, but then this issue exploded this week and well... I already talked about Ebola a bit before, so I should probably say something.  Let’s start with the facts:

A Liberian man who was working toward gaining legal residency status in the United States arrived on September 20th, 2014.  On September 24th he fell ill and went to the hospital on the 26th where he was diagnosed with a viral infection and released despite being from an Ebola outbreak zone.  He was taken to the hospital a second time on September 28th by ambulance and is current undergoing care in a hospital in Dallas.

He was staying with his apparent girlfriend in an apartment, along with several children.  Currently the family is under quarantine and over 100 people have been identified as being at risk for exposure.

This is scary, especially for those that don't understand.  Considering I currently am getting my ass kicked by a cold and will almost certainly be the recipient of looks after this, I should point out that we're talking about 1 case in a country of over 300 million people at this point.

It's not the time to panic.  We should certainly be concerned, especially in light of the obvious failure of the Liberian government's attempt to screen passengers and the hospital failing to diagnose the case during his first visit.

This is probably going to be only the first in several such incidents, as the West African countries that are currently being ravaged by the disease have pretty strong historical ties with the United States.  In addition we should probably expect many other countries to have this occur as panic causes people to try and flee from the outbreak.

The last WHO estimates and projections I saw were horrifying, with their upper estimates putting the number of expected cases to reach as high as 1.4 million by year's end, with the number of cases increasing by over 10,000 a week by the end of October.  With this rate of infection the probability of the disease reaching United States shores soars, and already a couple other possible cases have begun to crop up.

Knowing all this, and the CDC and WHO warnings about the dangers of a pandemic of other diseases, it's probably a good idea to learn about the disease and how to protect yourself from it.


Ebola is widely considered to be a rather difficult virus to catch, in that it is normally only transmittable through fluid contact - such as through vomit, sweat, blood, urine, saliva, and other bodily fluids.  Most experts say the disease is not transmittable by air.  I say most because I did run across a couple research papers which indicate that some viral particulates of Ebola can become airborne, but this mode of transmission is extremely rare and only probable in environments with a large number of patients in a confined area.

Ebola however is highly transmittable through the smallest amount of bodily fluids and aerosal.  This is why health workers wear face masks and various forms of full body protection.  As an individual you can reduce your risk for exposure by avoiding contact with bodily fluids, dirtied clothes, and people that generally look as if they've fallen ill.  Additional protection through the use of face masks or rubber gloves will keep you safe in most circumstances, though it still will not be one hundred percent effective.

Incubation Period:

Ebola has an incubation period of 2-21 days, depending on the severity of the exposure and health of the exposed individual.  Unlike some diseases, Ebola's infectiousness increases with the severity of the symptoms.  The bodies of the victims of Ebola are an extremely infectious object and as a result must be burned to prevent the spread of the disease.


Initial symptoms of Ebola echo that of the common flu... muscle aches, tiredness, cold sweats, and fever.  As the disease worsens additional symptoms occur including vomiting, diarrhea, internal hemorrhaging, bloody stool, blood in the urine, bleeding from the eyes and nose, and ultimately death due to complications from blood loss.


Survivors of the disease tend to have antibodies that will last up to thirty years, though there's no documented information on if this immunity is localized to just a strain or the disease in it's entirety. Survivors remain infectious for as long as three months after they've begun their recovery, especially through sexual contact.

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