It’s Pretty Much When, Not If, Ebola Will Get Here

September 8, 2014

This weekend, the chance that someone infected with Ebola will arrive in the US and give it to someone else is estimated at 5%. By the end of the month, it’s estimated it will be an 18% risk.Image source: NPR

That’s only a few weeks away—and the end of the month isn’t some magical milestone—Ebola will still be here in October. Things are getting worse, not better, in West Africa. More doctors have gotten sick, the risk is still there because there’s not enough equipment to treat people (in fact, they’re having to focus on hygienic body disposal over more medical facilities). We have months to go before we have more of the medicine that treated the American doctors, much less enough for all the infected people. Presumably, the risk will only get higher.

Here’s the first big concern:

Passengers are finally being screened before the board flights out of the country, BUT Ebola symptoms don’t appear right away—there’s no way to guarantee someone isn’t carrying it. And although we’ve got lots of procedures in place—people are behaving more than screwy. No one thinks it could happen to them, or their first thought is getting home to their family. There have been a few weird incidents, and I’m sure they’ll be more.

Here’s what’s worse:

Scientists have been able to follow Ebola closely through the whole outbreak. And it’s mutating. And the longer it’s in humans, the higher the chance it will mutate into a more transmissible form.

While the US is taking steps to prepare, we should also mentally prepare. They don’t think it will be as fast spreading if it gets here (more like a small cluster of cases), but again, there are a handful of things that could make it very bad very quickly. While worrying about Ebola is one thing, worrying about the panic it may cause is another. Food—from animals to fruit like mangoes are contaminated in Africa. Relatives become quarantined before they die, and those who survive have had harrowing experiences. There are lots of buttons that could be pressed that make people go coocoo.

The US might have one advantage: Europe will probably get it first, so we’ll know it’s coming.

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September 30, 2014 at 2:54 pm

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