Fort Worth, Texas,
05
August
2014
|
07:26 PM
America/Chicago

4 reasons not to fear Ebola

@TheDocSmitty answers our questions

Let me start by saying that the work Dr. Kent Brantly was doing was absolutely amazing. I cannot imagine putting myself at that level of risk to help people who, otherwise, would have no help. I have said many prayers for him and his family over the past week and hope for complete recovery for both him and Nancy Writebol (another aid worker who was diagnosed with Ebola and has now returned to the United States).

I am getting many questions about Ebola virus. Most of the direct questions center on the fact that two Americans are returning back to the United States after being diagnosed.

Here are some of the questions I have received (and where I heard them):

1. What is Ebola virus? - Media

Ebola is a virus that causes fever, weakness, sore throat, headache and muscle pain. It can and often does progress to cause kidney and liver problems as well as internal and external bleeding. This bleeding can, and unfortunately often does, lead to death. There is no specific treatment for Ebola, but patients often require intensive monitoring in an ICU setting to control their symptoms and bleeding.

2. How fast could an outbreak of Ebola virus spread? – Abilene friends

Cases of Ebola virus, to this point, have happened in accidental lab exposures and in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of the fact that Ebola is transmitted via blood and body fluids, outbreaks tend to start because families have the responsibility of burying their own family members who have died from Ebola. No one knows how long Ebola virus can live inside a human body thus making this the likely cause of sustained outbreaks in these areas.

Secondly, patients with Ebola are not contagious until they are demonstrating symptoms. This is why anyone returning from Africa who develops fever should seek medical attention immediately. If people who could have potentially been exposed are isolated quickly, it is unlikely that we will ever have a case of Ebola transmitted in the United States.

3. Is there a vaccine available to protect our kids? – Clinic patients

At this point, there is no reason to worry about your children and Ebola virus. We had families keeping their children from traveling within the area for a field trip last week due to their fear. This is an unfounded concern at this point … avoid traveling to sub-Saharan Africa and you should be covered.

Regarding a vaccine for Ebola, there are trials going on to develop vaccines but they are not likely to be used in the United States as the risk of infection here is low.

4. Should we really be flying someone who we know has Ebola to the United States? – Social media

The answer is definitely, yes! There is no risk to the general public from Ebola virus. Ebola virus is transmitted through blood and body fluids. The doctors at the CDC and Emory University are specifically trained to treat patients but avoid contact, which could lead to the infection spreading. Treating Dr. Brantley and Nancy Writebol in the United States gives them their best chance of survival.

Kent Smith is an attorney and the associate general counsel of the legal department at Cook Children’s. He’s also a friend of Dr. Brantly. It’s interesting to get his perspective on this and I thought you might want to see it …

 

 

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

Comments 1 - 9 (9)
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jfr
05
August
2014
Great article - thank you! Continued prayers for a full recovery for Dr. Brantley and Nancy Writebol.
Maricela Ramos
08
August
2014
Very informative-thank you. We continue to hope for the best for Dr Brantley and Nancy Writebolt.
Derek Snow
08
August
2014
There is absolutely NO REASON to justify the introduction of the Ebola or any other deadly virus into the United States that was contracted by a volunteer who chose to assume the risk for themselves and after contracting the disease, decide to include the rest of us in the gamble that their treatment will be mistake free and there is zero chance of spreading the virus. My family chose to not volunteer to go to Africa to treat Ebola patients and I don't appreciate those who did, bringing the disease back to the United States. I don't think that anyone who has traveled to the outbreak zone should be permitted into this country without a mandatory quarantine period that would rule out asymptomatic carriers to mingle with the general population. Tough stance but MY family are the lives that I am going to protect.
Justin Smith
08
August
2014
Derek,This is actually the best argument I have heard about not wanting to bring infected patients back to the US for treatment. I very much appreciate your comment and the way you present it. I too have wondered about if the United States would institute some type of quarantine period for travelers here and there. I believe the risk is low for both situations because of the way Ebola is transmitted. But if I had to say which I would be more concerned about, it would be a traveler coming back who does not know they are infected rather than bringing someone back with a known infection with all precautions taken. Again, thanks so much for you input. It really made me do some thinking.
Stephanie
10
August
2014
Thank you DR. Smith for informing us as to how this disease is contracted. It has settled so many worries for me and my children. When you stated that the disease is contracted via blood/bodily fluids I thought "which other diseases are contracted this way?" Immediately AIDS and hepC came to mind. We as a Country have been dealing with both of these diseases for decades and have yet to have a mass outbreak of either one. And we don't even quarantine the people that have these diseases. So the fact that the people that have Ebola are being quarantined and a lot of safety measures are in place, I see the risk of my family contracting it as not only low but basically minute. Thank you for the very helpful and reassuring information!
Melissa
16
October
2014
I have a few direct questions about Ebola? Thank you in advance.Hypothetically,1) if someone w a fever, symptom of Ebola and unknowingly effected by it, is playing volleyball at school and is sweating and that ball is passed hitting another student sweating ( body fluid from skins pores) can that be transmit less?Same 2)senerio sweaty friend hugging another friend? Water3) fountain, saliva?4) is it true Ebola virus is alive in the air for seconds or minutes and if so is it airborne for a short period of time?Thank you
Justin Smith, MD
16
October
2014
I spent the day yesterday doing some quiet, serious thinking about Ebola, contacts, infection spread etc. Because it has been healthcare workers involved, it hit close to home and required me to do some serious thinking about my thoughts about the infection. I recognize that there are many different opinions and stories out there. I want to simply be transparent with you about my thoughts as a physician who spends a lot of time communicating with patients via social media and other platforms.I know with the spread of the infection in the United States there are a lot of people concerned. I think it raises the level of concern for all of us so I completely understand that. After thinking, I continue to feel strongly that the risk of spread to the general population is still extremely low based on the following thoughts:1) Thomas Eric Duncan was home for 2-3 days with Ebola. There were many contacts during that time, some considered "high" and some considered "low" risk. Even during that time when he was ill, none of these contacts contracted the virus despite some of them undoubtedly providing pretty intimate care for him. At this point he was sick but apparently not as sick as he became during his time in the hospital.2) The 2 secondary cases both occurred in nurses who were actively, involved in very close care of Mr. Duncan when he was at his sickest time. We know that Ebola is not contagious except for when people are showing symptoms and we know that they become more contagious as they get sicker.3) We will have to wait and see as more details come out but there are many reports that the staff at the hospital were not following the guidelines for infection containment that we know are effective at containing spread, perhaps through no fault of their own. Again, I want to hear the full story on this before I place judgment. These issues tend to be revealed over time.4) So far, the only diagnosed Ebola cases in the United States have either been people who were in affected areas and now 2 people with known, direct exposure to those people. I believe that if the transmission pattern for Ebola had changed, we would have seen many, many more cases already at this point.Keep these things in mind as you read the information that comes across during the next few days. Everyone needs to make your own decisions about how to protect your family but these thoughts are based on the information we have on hand at this point.
Marcela Gram
20
October
2014
So do you still stick to your statement that it's okay to fly someone over to the US who has Ebola now that it's actually happened and now Ebola is spreading over here? The fact that Ebola is spreading through the very people you said would be able to help (doctors at the CDC and Emory University) does not seem like a good sign. Is the a vaccine? Should people start worrying now? Maybe we should start taking real and better precautions (i.e. don't let people fly over here with Ebola) and not act like this is no big deal and we shouldn't worry about it.
Justin Smith
20
October
2014
Yes, because no doctors from the CDC, Emory and the other receiving hospitals have contracted Ebola because of someone transported here for treatment, I still believe that it was the right thing to do. The best precaution is to avoid being around people who are sick especially those at risk for Ebola (travelers to affected areas in west Africa or someone who has had direct contact with a sick traveler). I do not think it is time for people to start worrying now. It is important for people to be aware. That is why we do what we do, working hard to inform people about what is out there. There is no vaccine for Ebola. I'm sure it will be available at some point but likely not for a while.