Ebola Virus In West Africa Just a Plane Ride Away: Health Experts


The Ebola virus is rapidly spreading in different countries in West Africa is just a plane ride away to the United States, according to Michael Osterholm, director for the Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota.

Ebola virus would not pose a major public health risk in the U.S.

According to Osterholm, the Ebola virus could be brought easily to the United States. He said,   “A case very well could fly out of Africa, only to be detected in some distant country.” He added that Ebola “would not pose a major public health risk” and unlikely to cause a large outbreak in the country.  He explained that the virus spreads through intimate contact.

According to Osterholm, the Ebola virus is spread through body fluids such as blood and saliva. He said a person infected with the virus could contaminate the bathroom in a plane if he or she vomits or has a diarrhea.

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On the other hand, Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at the Maiman School of Public Health at Columbia University said the issue regarding the spread of Ebola virus is complicated.

Sweat and saliva carry a lower level of Ebola virus compared with blood and stool. “I don’t think we’ve seen actual cases (passed through contact with sweat or saliva). There may someday be a strain that’s more capable of doing that, but so far it’s more theoretical than actual,” said Morse.

People in Africa were easily infected with Ebola virus because of their religious practices as they wash the bodies of their deceased family members in preparation for the burial.  Health workers in the region were also infected easily because a hospital room is shared by six to seven patients.  Hospitals in the region also lack resources to prevent infectious diseases such as special containers to dispose of syringes, and full-body protective garments called.

Deadliest Ebola outbreak

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the current Ebola outbreak in Western Africa is the deadliest on record as the fatality rate was 90% higher than the previous outbreaks.

At present, there are already 1,201 cases including 672 deaths related to Ebola virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in Western Africa since the virus was detected in March. Two U.S. doctors were infected with the virus while trying to prevent the spread of the disease in the region.

Morse said Western Africa needs more help from around the world particularly those who are trained in infection control procedures to prevent the rapid spread of the Ebola virus. According to him, he received an e-mail from a friend indicating that they are working 12 to 24 hours to treat patients in the region.

He said, “When people tell me they’re working flat-out 20 hours a day, obviously more resources are needed. With something this size, it’s obvious that we’re under-resourced right now,” Morse said.

According to WHO, the symptoms of Ebola virus include fever, rash, muscle aches, chills, sore throat, diarrhea and vomiting. People with advanced cases of the disease experience heavy internal bleeding and suffers from multiple organ failures.

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