Ebola virus spreads to U.S.

CBS news reported that Thomas Eric Duncan was confirmed to have the Ebola virus on Sept. 30, four days after he arrived in Dallas, Texas, on a flight from Liberia. Because he did not exhibit symptoms while he was on the plane, Dr. Tom Friedman, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assured passengers on the flight that they were not exposed to infection. Duncan is currently in medical isolation in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The timeline for Duncan’s case is fairly clear. Duncan arrived in Dallas, on Sept. 19. On Sept. 21, his first symptoms appeared. An ambulance brought him to the hospital for a fever and he was sent him home with antibiotics. Two days later, he was admitted to the hospital again, and on Sept. 30, the CDC lab in Atlanta confirmed Duncan was infected with the Ebola virus. He has been in medical isolation since he was admitted.

According to the CDC, Ebola is a hemorrhagic virus. Its beginning symptoms, such as fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat resemble the flu. Later symptoms of Ebola include vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney, liver function and sometimes internal and external bleeding. CBS news reported that between 50-90 percent infected of patients die from the virus. The virus is transmitted through direct contact of bodily fluids. In other words, one cannot contract the disease through the air or by simply bumping shoulders.

All people who have come in contact with Duncan, his family and friends, as well as the people who transported him to the hospital and other medical officials who worked with him, are currently being monitored for Ebola symptoms in medical isolation. Those people are to be kept in isolation for 21 days, which is the incubation period for the virus.

Sara Townsend, ’15, expressed confidence in the CDC’s ability to contain the virus:

“I’m a little concerned that they didn’t make the connection between his travel history and his potential symptoms right away, but I think now that we’ve had this incident, everybody is going to be hyper-aware,” said Townsend. “So I feel like it won’t slip through the cracks in the way that I feel this person did.”

There is no cure or vaccine for the Ebola virus at the moment. Patients are being treated only with supportive care, according to CBS News. This includes oxygen, fluids, blood transfusions and treating other infections the patient may develop. Some patients, like Duncan, are receiving experimental treatments. There is no word thus far on how the patients are reacting to these treatments. Kirsten Peterson, director of pre-professional studies and instructor in chemistry pre-professional studies at Allegheny, said she was not completely surprised when she heard Ebola was in the U.S. Peterson saw it as inevitable. Townsend agreed.

“I kind of felt like we were doing better screening in airports,” Townsend said. “But at the same time, it’s an infectious disease, so it would be only a matter of time before it could potentially be here.”

Peterson is not worried about Ebola spreading much further throughout the states. She fears more for our health officials being sent to West Africa to combat the disease, where it is an epidemic. As for the U.S., Peterson has trust in the CDC to manage the Ebola virus and keep it contained.

“The potential is always there for the disease to spread,” said Peterson. “The reason it won’t become widespread like it has in West Africa is because of their lack of infrastructure, lack of equipment, lack of supplies, lack of doctors, lack of information. They just don’t have the capacity to handle it like we do. If we can’t contain it, nobody can.”

Her biggest concern is that information may not be properly stated because people do not understand the virus. She fears there may be widespread fear and the potential for panic because of information not being reported properly.

“I think it’s really interesting to see a public health emergency unfold in front of us,” Townsend said. “This is going to be history.”