Currently, the worst Ebola outbreak in history is sweeping across parts of West Africa and has left more than 1000 people dead.
If you haven’t heard about the American who died from it or the two public health workers who were infected and transferred to the United States for better treatment, then it’s just not fair that you’ve managed to live the last few weeks of your life without once considering the possibility of a mass Ebola pandemic – kind of like a zombie apocalypse.
To bolster some extra panic, someone hacked into Yahoo’s twitter account and tweeted a false story that there was an Ebola outbreak in Atlanta. How terrifying…the beginning of an Ebola catastrophe – and I haven’t prepared myself! Good thing the tweet was determined to be false before public panic ensued. This does, however, remind me to stock up on water and canned goods…just in case.
I figured this would be a good opportunity to read up on Ebola to learn more about the disease, the facts, and how it’s spread.
Here are seven things to know about Ebola.
- WHAT IS EBOLA? Ebola refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body. The virus is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where one of the first outbreaks occurred in 1976. According to the World Health Organization, there are about five different strains, and three of these strains have been associated with the large outbreaks seen in West Africa.
- WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF EBOLA? A major symptom is hemorrhagic fever. Viral hemorrhagic fever is a generic term used to describe a severe syndrome that affects the function of multiple organ systems in the body. Essentially, the body’s ability to regulate itself is impaired, and this loss of function is accompanied by bleeding.
- HOW CONTAGIOUS IS EBOLA? In general, people with the Ebola infection aren’t contagious until they’re sick and showing symptoms of infection. The incubation period is between 3 to 21 days, with an average incubation of 8-10 days. Every person’s incubation period will be different. Incubation refers to the delay between acquiring the virus and the onset of symptoms.
- HOW IS EBOLA SPREAD? Ebola is spread through close interaction and direct contact with bodily fluids. In principle, the Ebola virus is not airborne, so people would have to come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. These include blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva, and semen.
- IS THERE A CURE FOR EBOLA? According to reports, there is no cure and, currently, there is no APPROVED vaccine. We’ve heard about the secret experimental serum that the two infected healthcare workers took to treat themselves. The experimental drug is called Zmapp, but treatment is still very much at the pre-human phase of clinical trial development, and so it’s considered a long way off from reaching patients.
- HOW FAST DOES THE EBOLA VIRUS CHANGE? Ebola doesn’t ‘mutate’ as fast as some other viruses. This is actually a really good thing. Some viruses, such as the influenza or SARS-related viruses, have the ability to constantly change. For those viruses, health care experts are always on the lookout to see what new strains have popped up from year to year. Ebola doesn’t do that, at least not so far. It’s pretty much stayed the same since its discovery in 1976.
- IS AN ARMAGEDDON CAUSED BY EBOLA POSSIBLE? Probably not! In part, Ebola is ravaging parts of West Africa mostly because of the living conditions and the poor accessibility to proper health care and resources.
My disclaimer is that I’m not a leading expert on the subject matter, and this list is merely my opinion based on research and several scientific sources that I’ve read.