Ebola in Dallas Does Not Mean We're All Going to Die
Ebola virus scanning electron micrograph
As many as 114 exposed
On September 20th, a man arrived by plane to Dallas to visit family members. On Wednesday the 24th, he reported to the ER at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he told the nurse on duty who checked him in that he had recently come from West Africa. Currently, that area is a hotbed for Ebola infection with 7,178 people infected and 3,338 killed.
U.S.'s "Patient Zero" is Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian native in his mid-40s. Just a few days before leaving home, Duncan helped transport a pregnant woman to the hospital (where she was turned away) and back home, where she died a short time later.
How it all went wrong
When Duncan arrived at the ER, the admitting nurse asked about any recent travel as part of the triage questionnaire, but that information was not passed along the chain of command during Duncan's exam and treatment. He was given a prescription for antibiotics and sent home.
Local media reported that two days after his ER visit, Duncan was vomiting outside of his apartment. His nephew contacted the CDC expressing concern that Duncan was exhibiting symptoms of infection. He was picked up by ambulance and returned to the hospital where he was admitted and quarantined.
Officially diagnosed with the infection on September 30, Duncan is currently listed in serious condition and is undergoing treatment for what is now a confirmed case of Ebola infection.
Will there be other cases?
Hospital staff made an egregious error in allowing Duncan to leave after his initial visit and opened a window of opportunity for the virus to spread. Of the 114 people potentially exposed to the virus through Duncan, it has been determined that 66 of them do not have the virus and were not directly exposed. Officials could not rule out exposure to 38 others, and those individuals are being monitored for fever and associated symptoms. Seven healthcare workers and three family members were found to have had direct contact with Duncan during the time period he was exhibiting symptoms but not yet quarantined in the hospital, meaning they were potentially infected.
Among those potentially exposed are five children who attend four different Dallas schools, including two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. The children were exposed to Mr. Duncan over the weekend when he was sick and then attended school the following Monday before their exposure was discovered. They are now being kept home and monitored for any signs of developing symptoms.
Hotbed of infection?
Although those children attended school following exposure to Duncan, even if they were carrying the virus they were not yet contagious.
Patients must be exhibiting symptoms in order to be able to transmit the virus to others through contact with the infected's bodily fluids.
Medical waste team sent to patient's home
How did someone who had been exposed to Ebola get on a plane to the United States?
The Associated Press reports that Duncan lied on the airport questionnaire in order to get on the plane. The chairman of the board of directors for the Liberian Airport Authority said Duncan checked "No" next to the question asking if he had been in contact with or cared for any patient diagnosed with Ebola or if he had touched the body of any deceased who died in an "Ebola-affected area."
Duncan is expected to be brought up on charges by the Liberian government should he survive and recover.
West Africa Outbreak: Number of People Exposed
How AID workers protect themselves from exposure
U.S. Aid Workers Returned Home for Treatment After Infection
Four U.S. Aid workers were quietly transported home from West Africa after being infected with the Ebola virus. There was little news coverage of this fact. Three of the four were cured and have returned to their everyday lives. The fourth did not survive.
It's like Hollywood come to life
Ebola fever scanners installed at five Dallas schools
Fever-screening devices have been tested at Lowe Elementary, Tasby Middle School, Rogers Elementary, Hotchkiss Elementary and Tasby Middle School in Dallas. The Dallas-based company Wello loaned the scanners to the schools which will allow health officials to screen sick students without making physical contact with them to hinder the spread of the disease.
Should we panic?
One of our biggest issues as a society, especially with all of the new forms of social media that have continued to grow and develop over the past several years, is our tendency to over-react, jump to conclusions and PANIC when we hear about disease outbreaks (or violent crimes or any number of other events). We immediately personalize them--what if my child is exposed? Am I safe?
Before we all make a run on the grocery stores and stock up on face masks and full-body suits, let's examine this logically.
There are more than 319 million people in the United States. In that population, we have one confirmed case of Ebola. That's 1 out of 319,000,000 people.
The population of West Africa is approximately 250 million, and among that population there are more than 7,000 cases of Ebola.
The determining factors in the West African outbreak is their lack of adequate sanitation and health care. These are problems we are fortunate enough to not have to deal with here in the U.S.
While it is understandable that people are concerned, there is no need to board up our windows and hole up in our houses just yet. That possibility, however slight, does exist, but so does the possibility of World War Three and alien attack.
The best defense is to stay informed and remain calm. Do your research, and if you suspect anyone you know has been exposed, protect yourself and call the CDC.
No one wants this stuff to spread.