Are You More Likely to Catch Ebola Now?

2014-1018 EbolaI asked readers whether or not they felt a post about Ebola would be a good topic for this blog. Roughly the same number of readers supported the idea as those who opposed it. As such, I decided to write the post. I am neither an infectious disease specialist nor a physician, so I relied heavily on data reported by CNN, Fox News, and other media outlets.

Myths

I recently heard a story in which a religious leader was quoted as saying “brain injury, ataxia, seizures, strokes, aphasia, autism, and disability are all contagious and punishments by God.” According to the leader, “society should avoid contact with anyone who has brain injury, ataxia, seizures, strokes, aphasia, autism, and disability to avoid spreading the conditions.” Similarly, there is a myth that suggests the only way to stop the deadly Ebola virus from spreading is to close our boarders and cancel all travel to and from Ebola-affected countries. Neither myth makes any logical sense. Brain injury, ataxia, seizures, strokes, aphasia, autism, and disability are NOT contagious. Ebola is contagious but, not by air as many people believe.

Although I am not a particularly religious person, I cannot believe that God, as defined by any modern religion, would choose brain injury, ataxia, seizures, strokes, aphasia, autism, or disability as punishment for anything. I am more inclined to believe brain injury, ataxia, seizures, strokes, aphasia, autism, and disability are gifts from God because they are opportunities to view the world through a special lens.

Facts

There are primarily two ways people become infected by the Ebola virus:

  1. Direct contact with the blood or body fluids (including but not limited to feces, saliva, urine, vomit, etc.) of a person who has Ebola
  2. Contact with objects (such as needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of an infected person or infected animal

According to the World Health Organization:

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
  • There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but 2 potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.

Conclusions

Based on the facts supplied by several (presumably reliable) sources, it is extremely unlikely you will contract Ebola simply because you have a brain injury, ataxia, seizures, strokes, aphasia, autism or disability. However, if you have any of those conditions AND you engage in any of the high-risk behaviors known to increase the likelihood of contracting Ebola, there is a significant chance you will contract the virus.

Credits

Thanks to CNN; Fox News; Huffinton Post; CBS News; ABC NewsWorld Health Organization; Google for helping me find information used in this post; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly made it possible to use the picture, video, or text in this post.

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