The Friedman Blog

Posted on 10/17/2014, by Jeremy Edsall

Complexities of the Ebola Epidemic

The Ebola virus, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Ebola virus disease (EVD) first emerged in an outbreak around 1976. It is a severe illness that is often fatal in humans.  It is believed that the spread of the disease begins with infected bats which then transfer the virus to land mammals such as gorillas. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become the largest Ebola outbreak in history and first for that region.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, headache, and well as joint and muscle pain.  Symptoms begin within 8 to 10 days in most cases, and up to 21 days of exposure.  A person with Ebola may feel weak and experience diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. A lack of appetite is common as well. Within 5-7 days bleeding, both internal and external, usually results in the patient dying from low blood pressure and organ failure.

The virus has both social and economic implications. In many areas of West Africa farming has ceased and the transportation of food and other goods has been reduced due to border closures. Many have fled the most affected areas of their countries in an attempt to avoid contracting the disease.

Although Ebola is a world health concern, at present it is not viewed as an eminent threat to the U.S. population.  Health organizations caution however, that anyone directly involved in the treatment of the disease should take necessary precautions.  These include first responders, law enforcement, healthcare workers, morticians and those responsible for the disposal of hazardous medical waste.

Time will tell whether this outbreak remains contained or becomes a more serious pandemic.  The situation certainly lends itself to further discussion on protecting the health of individuals in under developed nations and the control of other infectious diseases in other parts of the world.

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