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Going Viral

October 23, 2014

I am worried. Aren’t you?

We’ve been so strong as a people, and as a nation, for so long, we feel invulnerable much of the time.

But the latest Ebola crisis seems to be getting dangerously close to home, and I am worried.

 

ebolamap

 

Do you remember the movie Jurassic Park?  It was a 1993 movie by Steven Spielberg written by Michael Crichton about scientists who extract dinosaur DNA from fossilized amber and begin to regenerate dinosaurs on an island, then try to make the island into a wildlife habitat that people can visit like a zoo.  While the premise of regenerating a species of dinosaurs from dinosaur DNA is unlikely, though scientifically possible, the most memorable, relevant and scary part of the movie to me surrounded the conversation with Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm who explained “life — finds a way”.

The Ebola virus is a life form and it is a deadly one at that. The Ebola virus is programmed genetically to survive and thrive like any other life form. It survives on in living cells and seeks them out, inhabits them, often destroys them, then seeks out more of them, reproducing and spreading from organism to organism along the way.

ebolavirus

Don’t “Mickey Mouse” around with Ebola – this is a gravely serious health threat to us all

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working on protocols to contain and treat or cure Ebola.  They have been somewhat successful in the treatment of Ebola, less successful with the cure of Ebola, and apparently not very successful in the containment of Ebola as the virus has recently been reported to have transferred from Africa where it originated, showing up in America in multiple places and already claiming lives here in America.

For those who downplay the risk saying that it is under control, I am reminded of the other words of the fictitious Dr. Malcolm from Jurassic Park who said: “the kind of control you’re attempting is not possible. If there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands to new territories. It crashes through barriers. Painfully, maybe even…dangerously”.

According to the information I have found, case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks, with the latest outbreak at about 70%.  You don’t want to get this virus as your chances of survival are not very good.

So the key is avoiding the virus. But as we’ve seen recently in the news, it is very hard to contain.  With the incubation period being 2 to 21 days, a person can have the Ebola virus for up to 3 weeks before they show any symptoms.  That is why containment is almost impossible.

Can you tell me all the people you’ve been in contact with for the past 3 weeks?  Can all the people that you’ve been in contact with in the past 3 weeks do the same?  And by the time it is identified, how many people have all been exposed to people who have been exposed to people who have the virus?

The potential for a deadly pandemic is great.

Even if, as the WHO reports, “Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms”, early symptoms are very similar to other viral infections and failing to treat these symptoms “as if” they were Ebola could expose family members, health care professionals and every other person an infected person comes in contact with to become infected with the deadly virus too. Even if Ebola is not the next epidemic or pandemic of the world, something else could be.  We all need to take health symptoms and disease control measures extremely seriously, and cautiously keep sick individuals quarantined from the general population, not send them to school or work where they can expose others, and get prompt medical diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

I DON’T want to stir up a panic.

I DO want to raise up an urgent alarm encouraging everyone to seek information on this virus and share it with everyone they know.  Everyone.

 

Recognize the symptoms:

First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, treat them seriously “as if” they were Ebola, and take every precaution to prevent and control the possible spread of the virus.

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Prevention and control:

The WHO advises that “community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Raising awareness of risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission”.

 

“Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Raising awareness of risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission.”

– World Health Organization (WHO)

 

That is why I am writing this article, sharing it with you, and asking you to do the same with others you know.

Risk reduction measures include identifying people who have symptoms, or may have been in contact with someone infected with Ebola, quarantining and monitoring their health and the health of anyone they have been in contacts for 21 days.

It is very important to exercise good hygiene and maintain a clean environment. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment like surgical masks should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home.

Notify your doctor if you or a family member has any symptoms. The doctor can evaluate your exposure level and any symptoms and consult with public  health authorities to determine if actions are needed.

Health-care workers have historically been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus at times. The virus is highly contagious.

People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.

 

There are no approved Ebola vaccines. And even if there were, would you want to be among the first to try them?

 

We need to get this information  about Ebola symptoms and transmission prevention measures to EVERYONE if we are going to have a chance to contain and avoid this deadly virus from infiltrating  our communities.  

Getting the information in this story to your family and friends, so they can get it to their family and friends, and they can get it to theirs, (and so on) and keep this deadly threat contained as much as possible is, literally, a matter of life and death.

Share this article with others and make it “go viral” to educate everyone we can before Ebola has a chance to spread to your community.  You can click on the Email or Facebook buttons below this article to share it with others.

Hopefully, with good community engagement and communications, we can all be working together wisely to limit the spread of this deadly virus in America.

 

For more information on Ebola from the World Health Organization (WHO) web site: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

Center for Disease Control’s About Ebola: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html

For a video with more information about how Ebola spreads: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/oct/22/ebola-virus-how-it-spreads-video

 

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