Ebola: The truth behind the outbreak

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

News coverage of the Ebola outbreak has spread quicker than the disease itself. One would be hard pressed to find a news channel or social media outlet that doesn’t have some coverage of it. In the face of this issue we must let cooler heads prevail, and examine the cold hard facts.

Ebola used to go by a different name, Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It is now simply referred to as EVD or Ebola Virus Disease. The most current and notable outbreak has been out of West Africa, specifically Liberia.

According to the CDC website, symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhaging.

The outbreak came to the United States in the form of Timothy Duncan, a Liberian who passed away at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The outbreak came at an unfortunate part of the year; this is around the time that the flu takes its toll. Many of the symptoms are similar to that of the flu. This has caused panic in many people that have had absolutely no exposure.

The Wellness Educator Assistant at Parkland, Shon Campbell, sat in on a conference call with officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The call was regarding Ebola and the preventative measures health institutions are taking around the state.

“EMTs are being trained to deal with Ebola patients. Local hospitals also have plans in place in case an infected patient arrives there,” Campbell stated. “To stay safe just wash your hands and sanitize frequently. If you’re within three feet, for longer than three hours of an infected person you could become exposed. Touching the same surfaces and then your mouth or eyes can expose you as well.”

There was an informational health meeting held on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014 for staff members. Two speakers headlined this meeting, Champaign-Urbana Health District Intern Shashank Saxena, and Communicable Disease Investigator Rachella Thompson. Saxena spoke about enterovirus, influenza and Ebola.

“Enterovirus affects millions of people a year. It mainly affects infant children, teenagers, and older adults. Weaker and developing immune systems are more susceptible to the virus,” Saxena stated. “In most cases the virus only causes minor respiratory illnesses. It can be transmitted from saliva secretions in a cough. Please, wash your hands and avoid coming into contact with anyone that is sick.”

Saxena explained that this has been the largest Ebola outbreak since it was discovered. The disease has spread between animals, from bats to primates and then on to humans. The mortality rate of this disease is generally around 50 percent.

“It can lead to multiple organ failure. The virus limits the amount of oxygen that can circulate throughout your body,” Saxena explained. “If you come in contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands, you’re at a low risk of exposure. Coming into contact with bodily fluids of an infected person without protective gear can put you at a high risk. Caregivers and healthcare workers are generally at the highest risk.”

Wellness Coordinator, June Burch, also attended this informational meeting.

“Champaign Urbana Public Health is working with hospitals and local agencies to educate people on the virus. The University of Illinois has had an outbreak plan in place for many years due to their high international population. We have to stay informed, but be careful about what you’re reading and listening to,” Burch said.

Burch wanted students to be aware of influenza and how deadly it can be.

“We’ve had one death from Ebola here in the United States. 6,000 die every year from the flu. Everyone needs to get a flu shot. Think beyond yourself. Think about the health of the community. The more people that are immunized, the less likely it is to spread,” Burch explained.

The bottom line is; wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, get your flu shot, eat healthy, and stay active.

Many media institutions out there take advantage of these epidemics to get more viewers. The truth of the matter is none of Timothy Duncan’s family has been diagnosed with Ebola. They’ve all been cleared and are healthy. Two of the countries with major outbreaks in West Africa have also been cleared.

Stay informed, but always be sure to find a credible source of information first.