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Ebola concerns: Q&A

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The recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa and the transport of two American citizens with the virus back from Africa to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta has many U.S. citizens worried about the potential for an Ebola outbreak in this country.

With that in mind, Dr. Christopher Whalen, the interim head of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, answered the following questions posed by the Athens Banner-Herald/

Q: What is Ebola?

A: Ebola is a virus, not a bacteria or a fungus. Viruses are not free-living, they have to live inside cells – unlike a bacteria or fungus, that can live on the surface of something like a doorknob.

Q: How do people contract Ebola?

A: It requires very close contact with a patient who is infectious through fluids or inhaling germs spread through a cough. Casual contact is less likely to spread Ebola.

Q: What are the basic symptoms of Ebola?

A: Ebola has a latency period after infection that lasts between two and 21 days before symptoms start to show. During this time, the virus enters cells and starts to replicate and spreads from cell to cell. It then spills into the bloodstream and then into the lymphatics and can spread throughout the body.

Early symptoms are nonspecific and include headaches, fever, diarrhea, lethargy and possibly a cough; symptoms that many other viruses can cause.

Later symptoms include hemorrhagic bleeding, which includes bleeding inside the lungs, in which case people will cough up blood; or bleeding in the intestines, which will result in blood in the stool.

Q: How is Ebola medically treated?

A: Early diagnosis is important because there is no antiviral treatment for Ebola. You hear about experimental treatments on the news right now, but there is no FDA-approved medication to treat Ebola. We give what is called supportive care. That means you maintain the vital signs of a person through intravenous fluid medications to reduce fever. If Ebola progresses it can cause what we refer to as end organ damage, which can trigger other types of treatments. We monitor the blood to see whether there is evidence of end organ damage and then react accordingly.

Q: What is the typical death rate for people who contract Ebola?

A: Experts say it’s anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. Looking at the statistics for the current epidemic, I took the number of deaths and divided it by the number of reported cases and got 60 percent.

It is a deadly virus, but I predict that the two people brought to (Atlanta) ... will survive because of good health care.

Q: Will bringing the two American diagnosed with Ebola from west Africa to this country cause an outbreak here?

A: Every precaution was taken in transporting them to the U.S. and admitting them to ... a hospital that has the highest technology you can imagine for health care. They are in isolation rooms that are specially designed with equipment to minimize the risk of the virus getting out of the room. The people treating them also wear hazmat suits and the rooms are filled with negative pressure and filters and nothing that goes into the room to treat the patients comes back out. It gets destroyed through proper disposal procedures.

I think the risk of the average Georgian contracting Ebola is close to zero. There’s no need to worry about getting Ebola from the two patients who came to the U.S.

In other comments on Ebola outbreaks, Whalen said it’s important to understand the role of the fruit bat.

“The current level of knowledge we have leads us to believe that, between outbreaks (in Africa), Ebola is being maintained in a reservoir of fruit bats,” he said. “We’ve seen these kinds of Ebola outbreaks in Africa for 20 years. They flare up and then they go away. Why does a country that hasn’t seen Ebola in five years suddenly have an outbreak? We think something happened in the ecosystem that brought a fruit bat that is infected into contact with a susceptible person.”

That’s important for people in this country to know, because it’s rare to find a fruit bat in the United States. They live in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

“Any ... long-term Ebola in the U.S. is unlikely because it needs that reservoir (of fruit bats) and I don’t believe we have the right reservoir or the right habitat for the reservoir and humans to mix,” Whalen said. “Any contact people would have with Ebola in the U.S. would be spread through close contact (by someone infected with Ebola) like we are seeing in west Africa. Once that chain of transmission stops, Ebola in Africa will go away again. In the U.S. we are not even allowing that chain of transmission to get started, so it’s not going to go anywhere in the States.”

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historylover 08/08/14 - 11:33 am
Thank you

for the facts. This has been a topic of conversation on many chat boards and a lot of folks are worried. Now I have a place to quote true facts that will hopefully slow down the panic.

nocnoc 08/09/14 - 08:56 am
Good Keep the Public calm piece

But play back the Head of the CDC comments on Thursday.

He indicates the USA will have an EBOLA outbreak, just not as many deaths.

Why because the USA citizen are in better nutritious shape than the African population and thus more likely to have a reduced death rate.

"The spread of Ebola to the USA is "inevitable," said the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.

YES the Head of the CDC Tom Frieden made the statement in a House Subcommittee hearing, adding that he does not think there will be a "large Ebola outbreak" in the U.S. "

nocnoc 08/08/14 - 01:09 pm
Something else to logically consider

While the USA is able to provide "state of the art care" for a maybe a couple 100 people, how quickly will that level of care drop as we start looking at 1000's?

If we see a light infection rate of 3 to 5%; like we did back in 1968, with the Hong Kong flu, our modern health industry will be quickly overrun as the recently ham strung US Health Industry, simply will not have the resources to handle all of the potential cases.

fedex227 08/09/14 - 01:39 am
Thank you ...

Mr. "I may not be a scientist or a doctor but I'd like to play one on T.V." Nocnoc

corgimom 08/09/14 - 07:37 am
Nocnoc, please post a link to

Nocnoc, please post a link to your information.

Because what Tom Frieden really said is that it is inevitable that it will spread worldwide, and that it is possible that it will come to the US, but is not expected to be a significant risk in the US.

It is hard to catch Ebola, relatively speaking; it's like HIV, somebody has to come in contact with bodily fluids, and it's not contagious while it's incubating.

Influenza is different, it's highly contagious and very easy to catch and it spreads while it's incubating, when people don't even know they are sick with it.

nocnoc, please, relax yourself. Ebola is nothing new, why hasn't there been an outbreak in the US already?

If you really want to worry about something, worry about hepatitis, that is very easy to catch and affects thousands of US citizens every year.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 08/09/14 - 08:51 am
Fruit Bats

Somebody will establish a colony of fruit bats here in the U.S. just for spite, because they think the U.S. is the Great Satan.

And who's to say that the fruit bat is the only species in the world that can host ebola? I venture to say that the virus can jump to another species to become a host.

nocnoc 08/09/14 - 09:39 am
C mom - requested links

"But we are confident that there will not be a "large" Ebola outbreak in the US."
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom

CDC Head, Frieden also told lawmakers that people with symptoms of the disease would inevitably spread worldwide, and indeed numerous countries have already begun testing patients with fever and gastrointestinal distress who have recently travel

I was about to provide NBC CNN and etc... but for some reason those links are now broken.

Bizkit 08/09/14 - 09:54 am
I'm more concerned with small

I'm more concerned with small pox that is air borne transmission, has a high mortality in kids, and none of our younger adults or kids have been vaccinated. A foreign entity could bring it in through Mexico and wipe out a good fraction of the US population born after 1972 if a vaccination program were not implemented-which now so many Americas are cautious of vaccines I wonder how effective it would be-ignorant as it maybe.

Bizkit 08/09/14 - 09:57 am
Confident of no ebola

Confident of no ebola outbreak-that's absurd. DO you want a list of things scientist have told us it wouldn't happen and it did? I know they want to placate the population but with world travel as it is I don't think that statement is true at all. I think we will likely have an outbreak but because of a generally healthy population and better medical care it can be contained and a lower death rate.

Bizkit 08/09/14 - 09:58 am
Monkeys and swine carry it

Monkeys and swine carry it too.

nocnoc 08/09/14 - 01:46 pm
C-Mom your "Please Relax yourself comment"

I am sitting here reading a 6 page INTERNAL USE ONLY Document concerning a CDC level-4 virus called Ebola.

Which includes the CDC's Emergency Operations Center's
Phone #(770) 48#-#### detailing the healthcare and 1st responders recommendations, actions, handling and reporting process.

So, what's in your wallet?☺
Yes, Ebola is old news, of about 30+/- years.and 20+ years since the 1st accidental entry into the USA (the RESTON VA) area as the Reston virus.

Before this global outbreak, Ebola was usually contained in remote, hard to access African villages, that sealed themselves off from others.

BUT, that is no longer the case, the new modern Africa has RAPID access, travel & now we have a Global spread (See CDC announcement).

It has SPREAD beyond anything seen in the last 30+ years and has made it way out of the 3rd world and into the World of JET TRAVEL. So YES it is game changer and totally NEW situation.

Even if we look like fools later, we have decided to act with greater caution in outside contacts. Just like we did with Swine Flu.

BTW: UNLIKE HIV, the DCD has even tougher processes for healthcare workers being it vs HIV.

Early reports indicate in warm weather it remains infectious for many hours after after a surface is infected and it takes 10% solution of hospital grade bleach to properly clean.

nocnoc 08/10/14 - 12:47 pm
Digging deeper Using OTHER COUNTRIES DATA

Recently we have been provided a lot of carefully placed Public Relations calming news articles on Ebola, and too many with misleading info in them the last 10 days.

So I did some NON-USA Government agency & medical Lab digging
for better info and data and according to several OCONUS health
departments and WHO.

Note: I have converted everything into USA /Fahrenheit
from the European Celsius degrees.

* EBOLA survives days outside the body in warm (Georgia 80-100 degree type) weather. Source: Canada Dept of Health

* EBOLA is persistent in its infectious survivability outside the host, very much UNLIKE AIDS, Which dies in minutes.

* EBOLA can survive an Alaskan -44°F winter and a Hot GA SUN up
to 139°F neither won't kill it.

* Especially Note below the length of time to heat and/or boil to kill EBOLA.

Taken directly from the Canadian Ministry's Health Site


(what is needed to clean or disinfect EBOLA)

EBOLA is moderately thermolabile and can be inactivated by
heating for 30 minutes to 60 minutes at 140 Fahrenheit, or
boiling (212/+ Fahrenheit) for 5 minutes, or gamma irradiation
(1.2 x10^6 rads to 1.27 x10^6 rads), and/or UV radiation.

The virus can survive in liquid or dried material for a number of days.

Infectivity is found to be likely at room temperatures (39.2°F to 120 degrees) for several days, and indefinitely stable at -94°F.

Infectivity can be preserved by lyophilisation. Freeze-drying, also known as lyophilisation.

In short an Alaskan -44°F winter won't kill it and a Hot GA sun up to 139°F won't either. The data seems to imply it can be canned in meat products or Freeze-dried MRE's and remain infectious for long periods.

Sources : Canada

J Virol. 2004 Jan;78(2):958-67.

Persistent infection with ebola virus under conditions of partial immunity.

The Number of documented (SO FAR) possible carriers in the USA already (just for August 2014) is




So everyone RELAX

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