November 19, 2014 The Facts Hold, Ebola Fades
First of all, thank you to everyone who has responded so enthusiastically to this series on the Ebola virus.
This update will hopefully be our last for some time on the occurrence of Ebola virus infection in the United States.
And, the update is quite good- as of now, we know of no one present in the entire United States who is infected with Ebola. The feared spread of Ebola never happened in this country.
It is worth a moment to reflect on the course, not of Ebola, but our fear.
The fear was not surprising given how deadly this disease is, in fact. Fear is a natural response to a threat, particularly one that is unfamiliar.
What was disappointing was how little the impact of the actual facts of the matter had on our fear across the nation.
And the fact that no one in the United States is currently infected with the Ebola virus confirms every fact put forward in discussions of this virus.
The key facts were very simple:
- The Ebola virus is not contagious when you first get infected, but gets more contagious as the disease progresses, becoming very contagious as the infected person nears death from the illness.
- The virus cannot be spread once it dries out. That means to catch it you need wet body fluids contacting an open surface in your body. Saliva and sweat can spread it, but dried out droplets from cough and sneeze cannot.
- This disease is very containable. With proper isolation techniques, the spread of Ebola can be reliably stopped.
If we had really thought about these three facts, the visit of an infected nurse who was not very ill to Ohio should have caused no concern in Ohio. And, as it all turned out, not a single person in Ohio she contacted caught her Ebola, not a single person. More dramatically, if we look at the entire planet of 7 billion people, the complete total of cases of Ebola seen in any country outside of Africa is a grand total of 15 to date. This is indeed dramatic proof that this virus can be contained.
I am also very relieved to see that all but two of the patients infected with Ebola treated in the US (all but two caught it in Africa) survived. There appear to be treatments available that work well. The two deaths, including one just this week, were in people whose infection was in advanced stages before arriving in the US.
Of course, biology can be complicated, and viruses evolve, so I am very pleased, and relieved the nature of Ebola virus and its three key facts did not change. It is really because of these three facts that no one in the US has the infection.
- There is no Ebola virus infection in the United States today.
- The three key facts about Ebola have turned out to remain true, making the threat from Ebola, even in the future, quite tiny to Americans in the US.
- Treatments are in development that worked quite well.
- Thanks to all who have found these posts helpful
Dr. Arthur Lavin
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