Here are the Facts on Ebola

(Photo by AFP/Getty)
(Photo by AFP/Getty)

The rampant deaths in Guinea have Westerners on high alert about Ebola, but Dr. Kent Sepkowtiz says contracting it in the U.S. is unlikely as the uncontrollable outbreak stems from the absent health care systems in resource-strapped foreign countries.

Ebola virus is back. In the last few weeks, reports from Guinea, a small country in West Africa (formerly French Guinea and not to be confused with either nearby Guinea-Bissau or New Guinea, the large island north of Australia) have identified at least 80 cases of Ebola resulting in 59 deaths. This is the first large outbreak since 2012 when the virus killed several persons in Uganda and the first natural outbreak of the disease in West Africa.

Public health experts are scrambling to contain the disease, which has no known treatment or preventative vaccine. The disease is caused by one of several closely related viruses and typically kills the majority of people infected, the same rate seen in Guinea now. Early symptoms include aches and pains and fever, with rapid progression to confusion, respiratory problems, and finally hemorrhage. For unclear reasons, the millions of tiny blood vessels throughout the body begin to leak, leading to blood under the skin, in the lungs, everywhere thus its designation as a hemorrhagic fever.

The blood itself, as it leaks out from blood vessels, is highly contagious and typically affects those caring for the initial patient. Symptoms generally begin 8-10 days after exposure. Though spread of established infection person-to-person is well-understood, the exact epidemiology of the infection in nature remains uncertain. Most experts blame bats as hosts (“reservoirs”) who can spread the virus without themselves becoming ill. Somehow the virus appears to spread from bats to primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees, perhaps from partially chewed fruit that distracted bats drop onto the ground as they whoosh to their next landing. The gorillas and chimps perhaps then chomp the half eaten fruit and become ill with a devastating human-like disease. (Entire gorilla communities have been devastated by the virus.)

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SOURCE: Kent Sepkowitz 
The Daily Beast

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