Why You Should Worry About Ebola

I’m reading a number of comments and articles saying that you don’t need to worry about Ebola in the U.S. Here’s one particularly obnoxious commentary, in the form of a flow chart. But it’s more than just random online posts. The CDC is telling us not to worry. — “Ebola poses little risk to the U.S. general population.”

Really? This is the worst outbreak of one of the worst diseases known to humanity. It’s spread to several nations. An Ebola patient is currently in the U.S. Even healthcare workers who take precautions are getting infected. The fatality rate is near 90%. Yes, there are real reasons to worry. Take a look at this sane article, arguing that we should be worried. There is no vaccine, no effective treatment, and no cure.

But now I’m going to add two more facts to the equation, facts that change the landscape of possibility for this disease.

1. Ebola could become airborne

Most of the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” opinions are based on the limited means of transmission of the disease. Transmission requires direct physical contact with bodily fluids. They forget to mention that persons with Ebola bleed out of every orifice, and all of that blood is heavily contaminated. They don’t seem to notice that even physicians who are experts in Ebola — who therefore take every precaution — are still getting sick.

Another reason we are told not to worry is that a person with Ebola does not become infectious until after symptoms appear. But I’m skeptical of that assertion. Certainly, an infected person is more contagious once he or she starts bleeding from every orifice. But Ebola infects the blood; it’s in the bloodstream, spreading to every organ system prior to the appearance of obvious symptoms. So it seems likely to me that Ebola can be transmitted prior to symptoms.

And the first symptoms are not unique to Ebola: “fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat”. [WHO] So doctor and patient cannot conclude, from the outset of symptoms, that he or she has Ebola. Precautions to prevent transmission would usually not be taken for such a vague and common set of initial symptoms.

But the real game-changer would be if Ebola ever became airborne. An airborne strain of Ebola would negate the above considerations. Ebola is in the blood, and so it is in the lungs which are thoroughly infused with blood. If Ebola becomes airborne, it would be easily transmissible without direct contact, and probably before symptoms became severe enough to diagnosis the disease and take precautions.

The book “The Hot Zone” is very scary. It’s about an airborne strain of Ebola in the United States. OK. That would be scary. But, you say, that could never happen. On to my second point:

2. The Hot Zone is not a novel.

It did happen. An airborne strain of Ebola developed in primates in a lab in the United States. The strain spread by air to the “control” animals, which were supposed to be kept free from infection. And a sample of the airborne strain nearly got loose in the U.S. population. That’s what makes The Hot Zone scarier than a Stephen King horror novel.

And it could happen, in the U.S. or elsewhere. It is entirely possible that Ebola could develop into an airborne strain. Viruses are constantly mutating. And airborne infection is not at all unusual among viruses.

So, should you worry about Ebola? Absolutely.

– Thoreau

6 Responses to Why You Should Worry About Ebola

  1. If a government agency says “Don’t Worry”, get very worried!! They lie, as demonstrated by the president himself! This is definitely something to be concerned with, I pray they are correct. It takes up to 21 days to incubate, that is plenty of time to get it and then travel anywhere in the world to incubate. The CDC says there is no reason to isolate the country from the world as it would affect our economy? Well what will the spread of ebola across our country do to the economy? It could already be to late, every plane that lands coming from Africa is a potential disaster. Please pray!

  2. P.s. For chikungunya the CDC says wear long sleeves, long pants, apply Deet mosquito repellant, and stay inside in the air conditioning. But if you are coming to America from Africa, Disney is OPEN for Business.

  3. I definitely think you need to be very concerned, but don’t panic. You should learn everything you can about ebola, what it is, how it transmits etc. A simple call to your family doctor can definitely help.

  4. In your point #2, you failed to mention that Ebola Reston is non-pathgenic to humans. I agree that Ebola is something to take notice of. I also feel it was very irresponsible to bring two infected people into the country for treatment. However, your theme is that people should be armed with facts – so you should include all relevant facts as well.

  5. Every time we breath out thousands of tiny saliva droplets are expelled. If we cough or sneeze these droplets can be sent amazing distances at fantastic speeds. If a person is infected with Ebola there will no doubt be viruses in the saliva. Breathe in any of the infected droplets and you too will be infected.

  6. Less than a week ago the CDC was saying ‘it’s not in the cards’ that ebola would come here and not to worry, Now they say it’s ‘inevitable’ http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/Health-News/ebola-spread-U-Samerican/2014/08/08/id/587652/