Your Kids Aren’t Gonna Get Ebola, So Calm The Heck Down

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mom worried about diseaseIn case you’ve been under a rock for the last few days, America is currently caught up in a frenzy of panicked worry about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. One U.S. citizen has already been flown in to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to be treated for the disease, and another one is on her way. This has a lot of people, especially parents, up in arms with fears that it could spread. Which is understandable. The Ebola virus has already claimed over 700 lives in West Africa, and according to a grave statement from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the disease is moving faster than their efforts to control it.

This is some scary stuff, I will admit. But I was raised, in part, by a biologist and a gaggle of nurses, so I rarely get seriously worried about outbreaks and contagion. And I’m not worried about this in the least. *Edited to add* Ebola is up to 90 percent fatal if contracted, this post is meant to focus on the potential for outbreak. If one were to get infected (again, very unlikely) it would be bad news for that particular person.

There are a lot of misconceptions and half-truths going around about the disease, and a fear-mongering media presence isn’t helping the matter. None of this makes the CDC’s job any easier. No, you and your kids are NOT going to get Ebola. According to health officials, there is “virtually no danger to the public.” However, here are some key points to keep in mind if you’re still worried.

  • The likelihood of a major Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is basically zilch

From the Los Angles Times article on the subject, the chances of an Ebola outbreak here are:

“Remote, according to officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If an Ebola patient were to be identified here, American health systems would quickly identify, isolate and treat the person, along with anyone who may have come into contact with him or her.”

According to the CDC, in order to contract Ebola one must come in contact with an infected party’s bodily fluids such as saliva, urine, blood, etc. This is incredibly unlikely for most American travelers to West Africa. The people who have been infected, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary aid worker Nancy Writebol, both worked closely with patients as medical professionals and West Africa’s “weak healthcare systems” have allowed the virus to spread much farther and faster than it could in the U.S.

  • The CDC’s precautions go above and beyond

When Dr. Brantly arrived in Atlanta a couple of hours ago, he was flown in on a private medical charter plane outfitted with a special “isolation pod,” aka a portable structure, similar to the bubble from Seinfeld‘s “Bubble Boy” episode. Its purpose is to prevent the infected from exposing flight crews and medical professionals to the virus.

At Emory University Hospital, the two patients will be kept in a high-tech isolation unit separate from all other patients. There are only four of these types of units in the country and according to a statement from the hospital, it’s outfitted with “equipment that provides an extraordinary high level of isolation.” The team of doctors and staff are the best of the best and are highly trained in treating Ebola patients.

  • It’s highly unlikely that Ebola will spread via air travel

Each affected West African nation has announced plans to screen all airport passengers prior to leaving, including temperature and symptom checks and an infected person does not become contagious until he or she is already showing signs of the virus.

If, and this is a big if, a passenger gets through these screenings and becomes ill on a flight, commercial airlines serving that part of the world have received special instructions from the CDC on how to notify the agency and quarantine the patient. Remember, even once one is contagious, another person must come in direct contact with that person’s bodily fluids to risk infection.

I have heard conflicting reports stating that this strain of Ebola is airborne, but according to a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO), it is not. The incubation period for Ebola is between two to 21 days, but this strain is particularly virulent and according to this particular CDC press release, its incubation period is closer to eight days. If you don’t have symptoms after that, then you probably don’t have it at all. The CDC has 20 isolation stations at major airports which are staffed 24/7 and are perfectly equipped to handle Ebola cases.

This is what it boils down to; unless you know someone who recently traveled to West Africa, or you’ve been there yourself, you almost certainly don’t have anything to worry about. This isn’t the movies, and we aren’t going to see Contagion-level deaths and suffering. You, and your kids, will be just fine.

(Photo:  Johan Larson/Shutterstock)