Do You Fear the Ebola Virus? I Do Not — and Here is Why
There has been an abundant amount of media attention in recent months pertaining to the spread of the Ebola virus — to the point where some people seem to be panicking about the possibility of contracting the disease.
The five ports of entry include the international airports in New York; Newark; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Chicago, which account for about 94 percent of travelers flying to the United States from these countries. Passengers flying into one of these airports from flights originating in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are subject to secondary screening and added protocols — including having their temperature taken — before they can be admitted into the United States.
Here is a list of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which is based in the Atlanta area — for the prevention of contracting the disease caused by the Ebola virus if you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola virus outbreak:
Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids — such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment.
Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from the Ebola virus.
Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The United States embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.
To repeat: these precautions are strongly recommended if you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola virus outbreak…
…and think about it: how many of the bulleted items listed above would actually affect you? Do you plan on eating bat meat anytime soon? Do you plan on going to a funeral in Liberia?
“Infectious disease experts say the risk of that is low for several reasons”, according to this article written by Kathleen Doheny of WebMD Health Newsand reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD. “Ebola is hard to contract, they say, and good infection-control practices can stop its spread.
“What’s more, Ebola is much less contagious than many other more common diseases. The virus, much like HIV or hepatitis, is spread through blood or bodily fluids and is not airborne.”
Remember when people were scared of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV — which causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome? When was the last time you saw that disease highlighted in the media? Although it is still a dangerous disease, I suppose that it is no longer in vogue thanks in large part to the Ebola virus…
…although I suspect that the fear of contracting acquired immune deficiency syndrome has played a significant role to the supposed anti-gay agenda in Russia — but I digress.
In fact, I would not fear or hesitate traveling on a discretionary trip to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea because it is not easy to contract the Ebola virus; and I practice careful hygiene such as washing my hands thoroughly. As a result, I have not contracted a major illness in years — not even a bad cold…
…and I have been to Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa in the past. I contracted no illness whatsoever after spending approximately three weeks there — not even digestive issues after drinking the water there. I slept in huts on burlap sacks for beds. I navigated walking through dense jungles. I traveled in bush taxis on bumpy dirt roads for at least 60 miles. I drank naturally fermented palm wine scooped right out of the open trunk of a dead palm tree which lay on the ground. I had been bitten by mosquitoes, of which I am glad I was properly vaccinated for malaria and other diseases such as yellow fever before I left the United States. I shopped at local markets — even purchased and ate two fresh pineapples for approximately 17 cents.
Nothing. That is because I was aware and careful but without being paranoid…
That is not to say that I do not believe that people arriving to other countries should not be carefully screened for the Ebola virus if they were in the affected countries — I do believe that should occur as a preventative measure.
As with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, education, proper precautions and smart prevention — not panic, overkill or media theater — are the ways to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus and keep it in check.