Ebola: Modern World’s Most Virulent Disease Spreads to NY

Karen Li, Commons Editor


Ebola is a deadly virus whose recent outbreak began this March in West Africa. It is one of the most prominent topics in the scientific community around the world. 90% of people who become the infected with the virus die, thus Ebola has gained the title of “one of the world’s most virulent diseases,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, as of October 19, 2014, a total of nearly 5,000 people in five different countries have reportedly died from the virus, these countries including Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and the United States. So far, only one Ebola patient has died in the United States, though eight other known cases exist. Ebola victim Thomas Duncan, the first ever person in the US to be diagnosed died just eight days after diagnosis on October 8, 2014, according to the Texas Health Presbyterian. His death triggered a frenzied investigation for anyone who may have had contact with him and generated new fears over the capabilities of hospitals and government agencies to treat any additional cases. According to WHO, Ebola is officially the worst recorded outbreak in West Africa.

Initial Ebola symptoms include intense fever (headache and sore throat), weakness, and muscle pain. These symptoms are also coupled with rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, weakened kidneys and livers, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. These lethal symptoms usually appear 8-10 days after the virus has been transmitted into the body, and can spread only after patients show these symptoms (not immediately after contracting the disease).

Ebola is believed to come from the fruit bat, and is spread from wild animals to humans, and through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected body. Contained objects will also transmit the disease if contact is made with another human.

As for those who are uninfected, infectious disease experts and the WHO state that they are unlikely to contract the disease; in fact health workers and people who are in contact with Ebola patients are at the most risk for contraction. Unfortunately, no vaccine has been discovered yet, though many vaccinations are being tested but are not available for clinical use. The only treatment doctors are currently able to provide is “support therapy.”

As of October 23, 2014, a New York City Doctors Without Borders physician has tested positive for Ebola upon his return from West Africa. For the first time, Ebola has reached within the city. The physician, Craig Spencer, 33, travelled to West Africa on October 17 to treat Ebola patients in Guinea. After returning to New York, Spencer reportedly began experiencing nausea, pain, fatigue, and a fever. He is currently in isolation and under treatment at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Doctors say that the chance of Spencer spreading the virus is low.