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Concerned About Ebola? Here’s What You Need To Know

Updated 10/24/2014

Now that Ebola has reached the United States, the disease feels a little closer to home. Here’s what you need to know about Ebola, and what to do if it impacts your club. Here’s what you need to know about Ebola, and what to do if it impacts your club.

What Is Ebola?

The Ebola virus disease (EVD), previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever and most commonly referred to as Ebola, is a severe viral illness. Ebola symptoms begin with fever, fatigue, muscle ache, and sore throat and progress to vomiting, diarrhea, rash, kidney and liver failure, and in some cases internal and external bleeding. On average, about 50% of those infected with Ebola will die.

Ebola was discovered in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. The latter outbreak occurred near the Ebola river, which is where the name originates. This current outbreak, first discovered in March of 2014 in Guinea, is the worst since the disease was discovered and has spread to six other countries – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, the United States, and Spain. So far, Nigeria and Senegal were able to contain the outbreak to just one person each.

How Is Ebola Spread?

 Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s organs or bodily fluids (blood, urine, feces, sweat, etc), as well as with surfaces or materials contaminated with these fluids (such as bedding, clothing). Ebola can only be transmitted this way after an infected person has begun showing symptoms. A person can be infected between two and 21 days before showing symptoms.

Where Is Ebola Now?

 During this current outbreak, Ebola has primarily effected Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Ebola has also reached Spain, Nigeria, Senegal, the United States, and Mali, but so far no widespread outbreaks have occurred in those nations. Below are updates for the affected nations:

  • As of Friday morning, there have been over 9,900 cases and 4,868 deaths in the most affected countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia).
  • As of October 22nd, the outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal are declared over.
  • The United States has had one casulaty from Ebola, has treated several citizens infected overseas, and has had two cases of virus spreading here (from the patient in Dallas to two of his nurses, both of whom are recovering). One Ebola case was just confirmed in New York in a healthcare worker who had returned from Guinea. He is in isolation and officials are working to trace and monitor his contacts.

Why This Outbreak Has People Concerned

There are a few reasons this current Ebola out break is more concerning to public health officials than previous ones.

    1. This outbreak has spread farther and faster than previous outbreaks. Earlier outbreaks of Ebola occurred in rural areas, usually did not spread very far, and ended after several months. This outbreak has affected more urban areas, and has impacted more people than all previous outbreaks combined. What started in Guinea has now spread to four other West African nations, as well as the US and Spain and is predicted to continue growing over the next several months.

    2. This strain is particularly deadly – although the average survival rate for Ebola is a dismal 50%, this particular strain of the virus kills 70% of those infected. Compounding this issue is the fact that many nations affected lack the healthcare infrastructure and supplies to isolate and treat all of the patients, resulting in increased risk for healthcare workers.

    3. This outbreak has gone on longer. And the longer an outbreak continues, the greater the chances it will spread globally through international travel.

Why The Outbreak Is Less Concerning 

  • Unless you live in one of the affected nations in West Africa, your chances of contracting ebola are very low. You can only contract ebola by direct contact with body fluids of infected persons when they are symptomatic.
  • All of the cases contracted in western nations have been healthcare workers treating ebola patients.
  • Protocols are improving -  it is thought the two nurses in Texas and one in Spain contracted ebola during the removal of protective gear, and in recent days increased focus has been placed on education and implementation of correct procedure.

If you're interested in an in depth breakdown of the spread of ebola compared to other illnesses (like measles), the Washington Post has a great article.

What Should You Do if Your Club Has Been Exposed? 

An Ebola outbreak the likes of what is seen in Africa is highly unlikely in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, if an Ebola exposure occurs in your club, you should involve the CDC immediately. Since all cases of Ebola (one) in the US have been diagnosed at the hospital, it is more likely that, should an exposure have occurred in your club, the CDC will be in touch with you and work with you to disinfect and contact all those exposed.

For more information visit the CDC.  



Alex Black

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Alex is a registered dietitian (RD) and physical activity advocate with experience as a college athlete, clinical dietitian, CrossFit coach, and nutrition blogger.

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