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Are We at Risk for an Ebola Epidemic?

Newscasters give daily updates on the health status of the two Americans who were infected with the Ebola virus while in Africa. The numbers of those infected with the dangerous virus in West Africa continue to grow. As these stories garner media attention, the question arises as to whether America is at risk for an Ebola outbreak.

The Background

Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol became infected with the deadly virus while serving as Christian missionaries in Africa. The two are now being brought back to the United States to be treated at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) located in Atlanta, Georgia. In order to be able to travel without posing risk to others, each of these people must be flown over in specialized containment units one at a time.

The Risk

While some alarm has arisen over the Ebola virus being brought onto American soil, health experts continue to assure the public that the risk of an epidemic outbreak is extremely low. In the case of these two citizens, extreme precautions and tight protocol have been put into place to prevent any contamination related problems.

Health experts like former CDC acting director Dr. Richard Bessar explain that Ebola is not an easily transmitted virus. Unlike more easily spread viruses like influenza, Ebola is not spread through the air, but in the microbes found in the blood and vomit of the infected. Additionally, people are not contagious until they are symptomatic, making it easier to isolate someone who is infected.

As a further precaution, American health care providers have been educated and alerted for any symptoms to look out for in patients. Scientists and epidemiologists urge people that while the risk for the epidemic to spread to the Americas or Europe is extremely low, for the global good it is critical to address the outbreak in Africa.

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