Air travelers are spreading the deadly Ebola virus to more African countries and the outbreak is just “one flight away” from reaching the United States, say officials who warn it is already “out of control.”
A preview of how Ebola could spread to the US was seen in Lagos, Nigeria, where Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American man, collapsed at the Lagos international airport and later died. He was scheduled to be in America this month.
Authorities have quarantined the hospital where Sawyer died, isolated eight people suspected of having Ebola and ordered medical personnel to start wearing protective clothing. A doctor who had treated him caught Ebola. The death rate for those who catch Ebola is as high as 90 percent.
Ebola Spreading Fast
“This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it,” the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, told reporters in Guinea. “If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.”
One doctor in Africa told CBS News that Ebola was “spinning out of control.” Officials with the American Council on Foreign Relations went a step further, saying it already was “out of control.”
“There is no strategic plan of how we’re going to bring this under control,” CFR’s Laurie Garrett said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “What will be the global strategy if this disease shows up elsewhere?”
The worldwide death toll is approaching 1,000.
Chan admitted that efforts to control the Ebola outbreak have failed and more resources are needed. Chan was speaking at a three-nation summit designed to address the Ebola crisis. The summit came after states of emergency (martial law) were declared in the nations of Liberia and Sierra Leone because of Ebola.
WHO IS Afraid Ebola Could Mutate
Meanwhile, it is possible that Ebola could mutate and become even more dangerous. So far the virus spreads directly between people through bodily fluids and not the air. Chan is worried that could change.
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“Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes,” Chan said. “We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO are stepping up their efforts to combat Ebola. The Guardian reported that the CDC is sending 50 specialists to West Africa to work to contain the virus. The World Bank is planning to distribute $100 million to fund containment efforts.
Ebola Already Spreading In US?
The possibility of Ebola spreading to the USA has officials concerned because large numbers of people, including oil field workers, African immigrants and missionaries are constantly traveling between West Africa and the United States.
The danger of Ebola has been brought home by a frightening case at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Doctors there placed an unidentified man in isolation because he exhibited symptoms of Ebola. They are awaiting test results.
And Now A Dirty Ebola Bomb?
Could terrorists get control of the virus and spread it via a biological bomb?
Peter D. Walsh, professor at the University of Cambridge, says the US Defense Department is taking seriously the potential of terrorists spreading Ebola via a “dirty bomb.”
“That the U.S. government takes the potential of Ebola as a bio-terror agent seriously is clear from the fact that it has invested tens of millions of dollars in vaccine and therapy research over the last decade,” Walsh told The Washington Post.
How Ebola Spreads
Persons either catch Ebola from exposure to body fluids like blood or salvia or via exposure to animals killed by the disease. In Africa, people have contracted Ebola by eating wild game infected with it.
There is also a possibility that Ebola could spread through sexual contact, according to WHO.
Many of those infected with Ebola in Africa were doctors and other medical personnel who were treating infected persons.
The normal symptoms of Ebola are a fever that is followed by intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. This is often followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, kidney failures and severe bleeding in some cases. Currently there are no specific treatments or vaccines for Ebola.
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