In West Africa, the worst recorded outbreak of the horrifying filovirus Ebola continues its borderless assault on the local population unabated. There is no vaccine or antivirus which can treat this disease, and its effects on the human body are graphic, rapid, and nightmarish.
Already, two Americans have been confirmed as carriers of the disease which officials estimate kills 60 percent of those it infects. One of those Ebola victims was confirmed as Patrick Sawyer, an American citizen working for the Liberian government who developed symptoms of the disease after having boarded a plane bound for his home in Minnesota.
American officials are, however, advising Americans to be alert but to not fret excessively over the outbreak.
“While the Ebola virus could potentially be transported by travelers to another country by a plane ride, according to officials at the CDC, the actual chance of this developing in a serious public health risk to those living in the US is small,” Dr. Robert Glatter wrote in Forbes on Tuesday.
While the virus incubates from 2-21 days, it’s important to know that only those who are symptomatic–generally after 8-9 days–having fever along with diarrhea, vomiting and potentially a hemorrhagic rash can transmit the virus to others.
As a result, if someone on a plane with active symptoms–including vomiting and diarrhea –soils a restroom, another person who is not aware could theoretically touch a contaminated area, and then acquire the virus.
That said, it’s important to know that the majority of those who have become infected with the Ebola virus have been primarily healthcare workers in close contact with patients as well as family members caring for sick family members. In addition, the risk of transmission from family members touching an infected corpse prior to burial represents another potential mode of transmission.
American officials told Glatter that medical personnel in the U.S. are on high alert for anyone displaying signs associated with Ebola infection.
The U.S. government has no travel restrictions to West Africa in place, though the Centers for Disease Control issued a mid-level advisory to health workers traveling to the region.
With at least 672 dead in a series of West African country, the current outbreak is the longest running and most extensive since the disease was discovered in 1976.