The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed today the first diagnosis of the Ebola virus in the U.S.
This news comes at no surprise to public health experts who believe there’s no reason for Americans to panic. The Ebola epidemic – the world’s deadliest ever – has devastated West Africa, but will not likely cause the same result in a place where health workers have adequate medical supplies and are trained in infection control.
Paul Farmer of Direct Relief partner organization Partners in Health reminds us that while Ebola has had a mortality rate of up to 90 percent (with the most recent outbreak hovering around 50 percent), it doesn’t need to be so deadly. Historically, “there’s been no overlap with Ebola and modern medicine,” Farmer was quoted in the Boston Globe.
“Given the global air travel system and the incubation period of the virus it was probable at some point that this would happen – but that doesn’t change the basic fact that Ebola remains very difficult to transmit from person to person and that we clearly have an adequate medical response to identify and isolate such cases,” said Dr. Andrew Schroeder, Direct Relief’s Director of Research and Analysis.
Ebola is only contagious when symptomatic. It is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids, but blood and stool carry the most virus, meaning it’s more difficult to transmit through contact with sweat or a sneeze from someone infected, according to National Geographic.
Nonetheless, Direct Relief is taking appropriate precautions and is in the process of contacting national, state, and local partners and government bodies to offer assistance and provide targeted emergency response. Should the virus spread, Direct Relief is prepared to equip health workers with personal protective equipment and other items needed to contain the disease.
“We want to ensure folks at the front line are kept healthy to treat people should this begin to spread,” said Damon Taugher, Director of U.S. Programs at Direct Relief. ” We’ve long known the importance of the community health center and clinic staff in the U.S. in their efforts as the primary care backbone for the nonprofit safety net.”
Direct Relief is the largest charitable distributor of medicine in the U.S. and is among the largest supplies of medical aid to Ebola-hit regions in the most recent West Africa outbreak.
Though people in the U.S. have little reason to be alarmed, people should still be concerned about the rate of spread of the virus in West Africa.
“This really demonstrates the overriding issue in West Africa – namely that this is spreading to the degree it is based upon the fundamental weakness of the systems,” said Dr. Schroeder.
With the epidemic hitting close to home, it’s important for people who live in areas with solid health infrastructure to continue supporting global efforts to stop the disease where lives are most at risk.
To contribute to the fight against Ebola, donate to the response efforts at this link.