By NICOLE POTTINGER – STAFF WRITER
By now the Ebola virus is headlining across world news outlets, sparking fear and concern.
Ebola has been a serious crisis for some time in West African countries, including Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
The media first brought Ebola to America’s attention when two Americans contracted the virus while working in West Africa.
The two later received treatments for the virus at Emory University (Emory). Both have since recovered.
Recently, an American man traveling from Africa, Thomas Duncan, was at Emory receiving treatment for Ebola.
Duncan has since died last week from the virus, and Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials are closely monitoring all who came into contact with Duncan.
One health worker who was in charge of Duncan’s care also contracted the virus, making it the first case of transmission within the U.S.
The recent contractions of Ebola in America have CDC officials stepping up their measures of prevention and containment.
Now, CDC workers are screening anyone returning from West Africa in airports in an effort to identify and isolate anyone at risk for contracting the virus.
Sensationalist media sources have thoroughly covered the epidemic in both America and West Africa.
It is not uncommon, however, for the media to create widespread panic in situations such as these.
Associate Professor of Biology and Biochemistry/Molecular Biology Dr. Margaret Richey emphasized, “There is nothing to be alarmed about.”
In contrast, media in Africa has given helpful resources to a state that already suffers with a lack of funds and a weak infrastructure.
Dr. Richey described the current outbreak of Ebola as a “devastating disease, the largest outbreak we have ever seen [of Ebola],” but then put the situation in perspective. “Ten times more deaths are caused by Malaria than Ebola.”
By no means is she trying to marginalize the situation. Ebola has a 50 percent mortality rate and no known vaccine or cure.
When asked if Ebola is comparable to any past epidemic (in terms of mortality rate) Dr. Richey referred to smallpox. Smallpox had a 20-50 percent mortality rate at the height of its epidemic, but due to scientific innovation, it is no longer considered a serious threat.
RN and Director of Parsons Student Health Center Kathy Jones is concerned about the Ebola crisis coming to America, but she is not panicked. “Ebola has our attention and our respect. The staff at Parsons is paying close attention to advisories and alerts from the CDC,” Jones said.
Regarding students studying abroad, Dr. Richey said that “due diligence should always be employed,” and preventative measures should be taken.
These preventative measures include research into hospital infrastructures in the area.
This is especially important for students traveling CentreTerm 2015 to a West African country.
“Once [the students] return, we will have to respect the fact that they have traveled to West Africa and follow the newest guidelines from the CDC. There is a 21 day window during which time a person who has traveled to an Ebola-affected area will have to watch for signs and symptoms,”Jones said.
Students traveling to these countries should be “smart travelers” and know how Ebola is spread.
Jones said Ebola is “spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, or any object that was contaminated by said fluids.”
Because of the way it is spread, it is important that travelers wash their hands.
Senior and president of the Pre-Health society Albert Anastasio, recently returned from Emory on a medical school visit.
“While I was there, I did not sense any urgency or stress in the faces of the doctors and researchers on the Emory campus.”
In fact, in our admissions interview, the Dean of Admissions told us not to worry about getting Ebola in a joking manner, and he seemed light hearted about the situation as a whole,” Anastasio said.
Ebola is a growing epidemic and serious concern among government officials, as the virus is still a serious disease with no known vaccine currently available.
That being said, it is always important to keep up with the latest developments and to be aware of the spread of Ebola across nations. While CDC officials aren’t worried of an outbreak, they still advise citizens to be alert.
Overall, in the spirit of global citizenship, you should be concerned of the gravity of this situation and understand how it could affect you and those around you.