Friday, October 10, 2014

Panic is in the air in some places over the deadly ebola virus. Is the panic justified?

Excerpt from

How Deadly is Ebola?

With fear and hype spreading, let's take a step back with a basic question: Just how deadly is the virus, where will the outbreak spread to next – and how can it be stopped?
The world is facing an unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola virus, with more than 3,400 deaths so far and an estimated five new cases being reported every hour in Sierra Leone. Infections and potential cases have now been reported as far afield as the Australia, Spain and the US – which this week also suffered its first death.

But as the Government resists calls for major British airports to follow the American lead and start screening incoming passengers for the disease, just what are the risks to Britain, West Africa and the rest of the world?

Just how deadly is the Ebola virus?

The strain of the Ebola virus involved in the current outbreak in West Africa has a mortality rate of 50 per cent – though rates for the outbreaks since 1976 have varied from 20 to 90 per cent.

Since then, we have developed strategies of barrier nursing, quarantine, protective equipment and contact tracing – and we know that these are enough to contain outbreaks if they are employed early enough.

That’s because of the way Ebola is spread. Though highly contagious if it is given the chance to enter the body, it can only do so through the direct transferral of bodily fluids such as vomit, sweat or blood – making it much easier to contain than air-borne viruses like avian flu.

The reason the current outbreak has become so vast is simple – it was left unchecked for at least three months before being reported to the World Health Organisation.

The fact that it has been allowed to get a major foothold in West Africa – sprouting up in countries without the medical infrastructure to deal with it – is the reason it has become such a deadly prospect there.

Dr Edward Wright, a senior lecturer in Medical Microbiology at the University of Westminster who has been working to develop harmless versions of viruses like Ebola for the past 10 years, admits that “we have no experience of dealing with anything like this before”.

But there is no risk of something similar happening in the UK, Europe, the US or anywhere where systems of isolation and treatment are more established and – now – alert to the danger.

Read the entire article here.

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