With the recent death of Liberian Thomas Duncan in Dallas, as well as the infection of his nurse, every eye in the nation has been turned to the news.
U.S. citizens are wondering how Ebola can spread and how likely it is for them to contract the disease.
Ebola is caused by four of five viruses classified in the genus “ebolavirus.” Ebola is the most dangerous of these viruses, as well as being responsible for the most outbreaks.
Ebola is transmitted only via direct contact with blood or bodily fluid from an infected person or by contact with objects contaminated by the virus, usually needles and syringes.
One of the most crucial reasons for the spread of this virus is the poor healthcare systems in Africa where outbreaks occur. In that environment, transmission occurred in hospitals due to the reuse of needles and sometimes the lack of running water.
It seems Nina Pham, Duncan’s nurse, followed all the proper precautions. She wore a mask, a gown and gloves while treating her patient.
Many asked how she could have contracted the virus. According to recent news reports, detectives who have interviewed the nurse think there were “inconsistencies” in the type of protection used.
Here at WSU, many students and faculty have had questions and conversations about the virus and how it could affect others in the U.S.
“We have taken precautions in the Health Center,” said Shawn McQuilkin, a clinic physician at the Weber State Health Center. “We now obtain a travel history on any patient that presents to the clinic with an illness that includes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness or nausea. If they haven’t traveled outside of the U.S. in three weeks, we can rule out Ebola.”
Students studying in both medical and science fields have also taken a special interest in recent Ebola news.
“People have been concerned about Ebola becoming airborne,” said WSU microbiology major Ashlee Henry. “Ebola doesn’t really have the machinery required to infect the tissues it would need to in order to become an airborne virus. That being said, the longer this epidemic continues, the more virus particle replications and chances for mutation occur, which could be worrisome.”
When asked about the virus, most seemed very concerned about the possibilities of it spreading further in the U.S.
“We need to have a healthy respect for this illness and yet not be overwhelmed by unreasonable fear,” McQuilkin said. “Thankfully, it is not easily contagious like the common cold or influenza. We need to encourage our government and leaders to pursue a rational, aggressive and compassionate response to countries that are affected. Such an effort will prevent thousands of deaths worldwide.”