Very unlikely, according to the CDC, but not impossible either — which is why they have already begun to take precautions about travel and security. The agency today declared a Level 1 alert for the outbreak:
This is the highest level of emergency response at the CDC and, according to an agency spokesperson, it has been activated because of the surge of personnel being sent into the affected countries. The CDC’s emergency operations center is now assisting the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, which specializes in the study and research of Ebola. …
According to the CDC, level 1 is “all hands on deck.” The CDC has only been to level 1 three times in the history of the emergency operations center, which opened in 2003. Previously, it was activated for Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009.
The State Department evacuated two American medical workers with the virus last week in elaborate isolation chambers, so the danger won’t be from treating them but from potential travel risks. The CDC has a Level 3 travel alert for West African nations already in place, and airline and airport personnel have been warned to look for travelers displaying any symptoms of illness. Even then, it still takes contact with bodily fluids to transmit the disease, the CDC insists, and only if they are currently symptomatic:
How is Ebola transmitted?
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected symptomatic person or though exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
Can Ebola be transmitted through the air?
No. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air.
Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?
No. Ebola is not a food-borne illness. It is not a water-borne illness.
Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn’t have any symptoms?
No. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms.
However, despite its severity, Ebola is an unlikely candidate to cause widespread epidemics. Ebola outbreaks in humans begin with direct contact with an infected animal. In Africa, fruit bats are considered to be natural reservoirs for the disease, but chimps, gorillas, and antelopes are also known to carry the infection. Currently there are no natural reservoirs for Ebola outside of Africa, which means it’s a lot less likely that Ebola could establish itself anywhere else, says epidemiologist Stephen Morse, from Columbia University.
After the initial transmission from animal to person, the disease spreads from person to person through direct contact with the blood, saliva, and other bodily fluids of infected people. Compared to airborne diseases, which have pandemic potential, the spread of Ebola is slow because it relies on direct contact. And because it kills its victims so quickly, there isn’t much time to spread the disease to others.
In developed countries, the spread of Ebola can be thwarted by isolating infected patients and wearing protective clothing. “Standard hospital hygiene goes a long way,” says Matthias Borchert, an epidemiologist at Berlin’s Charité University of Medicine.
In previous cases where Ebola infected people outside of Africa, potential outbreaks were swiftly curtailed. In England in 1976, a laboratory worker accidentally pricked himself with a contaminated needle, but thanks to safety precautions, he was the only person infected and nobody died. In 1994, a Swiss zoologist began feeling ill eight days after performing a necropsy on a dead chimpanzee in the Ivory Coast’s Ta√Ø National Park. When antimalarial drugs and antibiotics didn’t help, the patient was flown back to Switzerland. She recovered 15 days later, after which laboratory tests showed that she had been infected with Ebola. But because the patient was kept in isolation and healthcare workers were careful about wearing masks and gloves, none of the 74 people she came into contact with contracted the disease.
That certainly explains why the CDC approved the transit of the two infected Americans back to the US, too.
Congress will get briefed today on the CDC’s efforts to develop an effective treatment/vaccine and safeguard against an outbreak in the US, as KGNS in Laredo, Texas reports today:
Thursday, lawmakers hear from the CDC, the State Department, and others [i]ncluding Samaritan’s Purse, the relief organization whose two American ebola patients are in Atlanta being given an experimental treatment.
Wednesday, the CDC upped its alert to level one, signaling a serious health emergency that could last a while.
Meanwhile, a weird dust-up began yesterday when the always-provocative Ann Coulter criticized the two Americans now being treated in the US for going to Africa in the first place. In a Human Events piece headlined “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded to ‘Idiotic’,” Coulter slammed Dr. Kent Brantley for putting his talents in service to poor Africans while poor Americans are still in need:
Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals. (This trip may be the first real-world demonstration of the economics of Obamacare.)
There’s little danger of an Ebola plague breaking loose from the treatment of these two Americans at the Emory University Hospital. But why do we have to deal with this at all?
Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first “risk factor” listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola — an incurable disease with a 90 percent fatality rate — is: “Travel to Africa.”
Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore? …
Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, Zavala County — where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless.
But serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been “heroic.” We wouldn’t hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantly’s “unusual drive to help the less fortunate” or his membership in the “Gold Humanism Honor Society.” Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away — that’s the ticket.
Today’s Christians are aces at sacrifice, amazing at serving others, but strangely timid for people who have been given eternal life. They need to buck up, serve their own country, and remind themselves every day of Christ’s words: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.
Erick Erickson at RedState wrote that he was neither angered nor outraged by Coulter, but very much disagreed with her argument (both RedState and Human Events are sister publications to Hot Air within Salem Communications):
Liberals treat prosperity in America as a zero sum game — if there are winners, there must be losers. They are wrong. Christians should not do the same with Christianity — surely a Christian may lose his life, but even then he is a winner. There are no losers except the Devil himself when a Christian goes therefore unto all the nations.
How many Liberians might come to know the Lord because of Dr. Brantly’s sacrifice? How many Americans, in an age of growing hostility to Christians, might see his sacrifice and pick up their own crosses? How many Liberians might grow in affection for the United States through Dr. Brantly’s sacrifice? We may never know the answer to any of these. But history itself shows us many will be saved and many will turn their hearts toward this great country. Christians should be focused on saving souls where the Lord leads them and lends them talent and we should all praise the work of the Holy Spirit in so doing.
Surely Christians in America can spare one man to Africa or even ten. After all, Christians are to save souls, not just American ones. Had Dr. Brantly gone to our southern border and provided his services there, some would attack him there too for helping illegal aliens.
But Dr. Brantly, as do we all, goes where the Holy Spirit leads. I don’t think we should be in the business of questioning the motives or direction of any Christian led by the Lord to any corner of the Earth — particularly when the missionary is prepared to lay down his life for a stranger merely because Christ said, “Go ye therefore . . .”.
Elizabeth Scalia is both angered and outraged:
Others tell me it is “schtick” meant to “make us think” but if that’s what Ann Coulter is serving up with her “charity begins at home” number, she’s doing it badly. Leading people into productive thought shouldn’t involve dragging them through a toxic swamp, where all sorts of rank and dubious detritus may become attached to our thinking. …
And how does she think Americans will be inspired to seek out God? By turning their backs on the needs of people facing horrific realities, and encouraging medical doctors who might help them to move to where the rich people are and preach the gospel to them while cutting their bunions.
That’s the ticket. …
Make no mistake, what Ann Coulter has shown us is her Strange God, the one wrapped up in red-white-and-blue. Coulter’s “patriotism” has been placed before the Creator, who will have no god before him. It stands so profoundly between her and the Creator that she can no longer see anything but the stars and stripes, and the mythical “city on a hill”, which looks like heaven to her, its glowing nimbus all that prevents the world from a thousand years of darkness.
When ideologies become our idols — and they are rampant, virulent idols running through our society, at this point — we lose sight of God, and we begin to lose our souls, too.
Put me in between both. There is nothing wrong with a critiquing eye on the use of resources for any legitimate enterprise, and Coulter has an argument on cost in this particular case. Disdaining Brantley as a “Christian narcissist,” though, is profoundly uncharitable, especially given the situation at hand in West Africa. The history of Christianity is thankfully filled with people who dedicated themselves to corporal acts of mercy in far-off lands to help people while trusting in God’s strength. We have Christianity in the West in large part because both Peter and Paul went abroad to preach the Gospel rather than remain mired in Jerusalem because they had yet to convert, heal, and/or save every single person there. If the Holy Spirit called Dr. Brantley to Liberia to minister to the deathly ill, he’s in good company — and it’s hardly worthy of Coulter’s time and talent to second-guess that call.