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Ebola: 22 things you need to know right now

Flickr: shawnleishman

With Ebola all over the news there’s a lot of information to sift through. Here we share the top 22 things you need to know now.

And FYI- throughout the list, I’m going to intentionally try to include photos that show a different side of West Africa then what you might be used to. An Africa without Ebola, because that’s what we’re working towards.

Ebola in the USA: What you need to know

1. At least 14 Ebola cases have been treated outside of West Africa in the current outbreak. The majority of these have been health and aid workers who became infected in West Africa and were flown home for treatment.

Flickr: UNICEF Ethiopia/ Getachew

2. 5 of these were Americans, all of which are still alive today.

Wikimedia Commons

3. Two people were diagnosed outside of West Africa: one, a Spanish nurse who got sick after treating a missionary in a Spanish hospital, and the other a Liberian man who began showing symptoms four days after arriving in Dallas. It was just reported today that he succumbed to the virus.

Wikimedia Commons

4. In the US, Health officials are using contact tracing (a method in which every person who had contact with an Ebola patient is found.) In this way everyone who might have been exposed to the patient can be safely monitored.

Flickr: Wikimedia Commons

5. Even if more individuals are diagnosed in the US - which will likely happen - it is extremely unlikely an outbreak will occur in the US or any developed country for that matter. Unlike the developing world, countries like the US have strong healthcare systems and sufficient resources to handle this kind of crisis.

Flickr: Teresa Boardman

The Virus: What you need to know

6.Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids.It is not airborne.

Flickr: Adam Cohn

7. Scientists now believe that the virus’ origin can be traced to bats. They believe that apes and humans catch it from eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on.

Flickr: Ahmed Abd El Fatah

8. According to the CDC, symptoms usually begin 8-10 days after exposure but they can appear as late as 21 days after exposure.

Flickr: Andre Thiel

9. Symptoms appear similar to the flu: a headache, fever, aches and pains. For this reason some people have confused it as such and have avoided seeking medical treatment. Sometimes there is also a rash, and diarrhea and vomiting follow.

Flickr: Andre Thiel

10. In the current outbreak most people who have become sick became infected after caring for an infected family member or patient, or they became sick after preparing an infected body for burial.

Flickr: Gates Foundation

11. People who have been exposed to the virus but are not yet showing symptoms are not at risk of infecting others.

Flickr: jbdodane

12. As of now there are no drugs or vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat or prevent Ebola.

Flickr: Ken Harper

13. However, an experimental drug called ZMapp might help infected patients. The problem is that the drug has not been proven to work and it is only available in limited quantities. The World Health Organization suggests that blood from Ebola survivors might be used to treat others, but there is no proof that on its own this treatment would work.

Flickr: Ken Harper

14. Apart from these measures physicians have other methods they can use to nurse patients through the illness such as using fluids and medicines to maintain blood pressure. They must also be watchful as other infections arise and treat these as quickly as possible.

Flickr: Kris

Ebola in West Africa: What you need to know

15. The current outbreak is in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria used to be of concern, however the CDC says it appears to have contained its outbreak.

Flickr: Marta Pigs

16. According to the World Health Organization, this is the biggest outbreak to date, with more than 7,400 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone having contracted Ebola since March.

Flickr: Adebavo/ IITA

17. Of the 7,400, more than 3,400 have died thus far, making there about a 50% survival rate. In past outbreaks, only 10-30% of those infected survived.

Flickr: RNW

18. In West Africa, the virus has been difficult to contain due to a lack of resources, poor healthcare systems, a lack of education, and fear that neither the doctors or the government can be trusted.

Flickr: Steve Evans

Looking Ahead: What you need to know

19. In the worst case scenario, it is estimated that cases could reach 1.4 million in four months.

Flickr: Teri Weefur

20. We need strong support from the international community to prevent this from happening. President Obama made a statement on Sept. 16, announcing the US’ plan to address the outbreak. While this sizable contribution will surely make a difference, a coordinated effort from the international community is needed now.

Flickr: Willem Heerbaart

21. Some people in the US view restricted flights as a possible solution, but blocking flights from West Africa is not the answer. As people travel to and from other countries the virus will make its way to the US one way or another in only a matter of time.Getting a hold on the situation in West Africa is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading in the US.

Flickr: borderlessworld

22. Currently airports are screening arrivals from West Africa by monitoring their temperature and looking for visible symptoms. While this might make people feel safe, this is doing little to address the real problem. Just think- those who are asymptomatic cannot spread the virus, and the likelihood of someone boarding a plane out of West Africa when already showing symptoms is extremely low. We need to turn our attention to West Africa, rather than countries like the US which are in very little danger.

Flickr: kris

This is an extremely complicated problem that is going to take a lot of coordination from a lot of players. But that doesn't mean we as individuals are helpless to help. Sign the petition to let world leaders know you want this to be a top priority.


Christina Nuñez