After two people in the U.S. became infected with Ebola and another died from it, fear of the disease appears to be escalating. Some have called for quarantining people arriving from West Africa, others urged travel bans on flights to and from affected countries, and schools in two states closed their doors temporarily. Are such actions necessary? Should we be scared?
Ebola is not an airborne pathogen like the flu. It can only be transmitted through contact with an infected person’s blood or other body fluids, often times through a cut in the skin or the eyes or mouth.
Ebola begins with a fever. Then come terrible stomach pains and vomiting. At this point, those infected usually find themselves gasping for air. Next, the virus attacks the internal organs, thereby causing internal bleeding. Then the skin erupts in bruises and large blisters and in some cases, blood pours uncontrollably from the nose and eyes.
There is no cure for Ebola. But it can be combated by nursing those infected by using fluids and medicines to maintain their blood pressure and by treating other infections that often strike their weakened bodies. This gives the body’s immune system a better shot at eradicating the virus.
The outbreak has been capped within West Africa since its inception in New Guinea last December. Experts suspect that the disease came from exposure to either monkey or bat blood probably caused by uncooked meat or improper handling of the carcasses of either species which are carriers of the Ebola virus.
Experts say that the chances of an outbreak here are very slim. U.S. health officials are monitoring a total of 20 airports and border crossings. Even if an Ebola outbreak were to occur here, standard hospital practices would prevent transmission of the disease from rising to the scale that we are currently seeing in Africa.
Although the epidemic is limited to Western Africa, concerns have been expressed about the Junior Christian Service trip to South Africa. Despite those concerns, the service trip to South Africa will continue.
“The chances of Ebola crossing closed borders and thousands of miles to enter South Africa are slim to none,” said Director of Christian Service Mr. Larry Legner.
That being said, Mr. Legner also said that “safety is number one.” If Ebola somehow penetrated the borders of South Africa, the trip would be cancelled—similar to how the Armenia trip was cancelled and replaced by the trip to India, according to Legner.
Since December, Ebola has claimed over 2,300 lives and roughly 4,000 people have been infected in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal. Modernization of Africa has increased the pervasiveness of the virus making it all the more difficult to combat. The World Health Organization predicts that it will take months to contain the outbreak, all the while the disease continues to spiral out of control as families are being decimated and entire villages are turning into ghost towns.
America is situated 4,500 miles from the nearest outbreak of Ebola. However, as a service-based community built around caritas, what is our responsibility when we are faced with a global epidemic?
“Perhaps we should worry about helping our brothers and sisters in Africa who suffer from the deadly disease and its effects, instead of worrying about the unlikely chance of contracting Ebola here in the U.S.,” said Biology teacher Mrs. Anna Geider.
Mr. Legner noted that he is interested in exploring a future collaboration with alumnus Dan Kelly ‘99 who opened a health care clinic in Sierra Leone. According to a September 12 story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kelly has trained over 1000 health care workers on the front lines of the outbreak.
As for the persistent Ebola worries with regards to the service program, Legner said, “I will not let fear dictate this program.”