On Sept. 30, Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person to be diagnosed with the Ebola virus disease in the United States.
Eight days later Duncan became the first person to die from the disease on American soil leading many around the country to ask what happens now.
According to the World Health Organization website the Ebola virus first arrived on the scene in 1976, but this recent outbreak is the “largest and most complex outbreak” since its discovery.
The outbreak originated in Western Africa, where the nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are suffering from the most widespread transmission, according to the World Health Organization.
Researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention believe the first patient contracted the disease by coming in contact with an infected animal.
While researchers have not been able to identify what the original host for the virus is, due to its similarities to other viruses they believe bats may be the most likely origin point.
The disease is not one that can be transmitted through the air, as it is spread by coming in direct contact with someone or something that is itself infected with the disease. That means coming in contact with someone’s infected blood or bodily fluids and contaminated objects such as needles and syringes.
According to the CDC, Duncan’s case was the first imported case of Ebola to be documented as all previous cases had taken place in Africa.
As Duncan’s story has become a larger and larger story, one of the arguments that has risen up amongst some crowds is, “why was he allowed to fly to the U.S. in the first place?” The answer would be that he actually did not have any symptoms when he left, and the symptoms did not surface until four days later when he arrived in the U.S. due to the incubation period of the virus.
And as this story picks up more and more traction after the death of Duncan, Americans are being a little more wary of those traveling to the United States from abroad.
Cal Lutheran sociology professor Dr. Sundar-Jovian Radheshwar said while screening at airports is an effective strategy to help monitor the disease, the implications of restricting entrance to America worries him.
“I’m really concerned about African-Americans being treated the way Arab Americans were treated after 9/11,” Radheshwar said.
So now it seems the questions that are being brought up now are what the U.S. government can do to help its people domestically and how can the people of West Africa be helped.
“I think we have the resources here to do basic quarantine measures and not get to much crazier than that with Ebola,” Radheshwar said.
“If we want to help [other nations] we should contribute with what we are best with and in this case it is medical technology,” Radheshwar said.
“We could help these international doctors with our medical technology and have research labs racing to find a cure and I personally believe that is more effective than the 4,000 troops we sent over.” Radheshwar said.
And as this recent outbreak runs its course one of the next questions that may come to mind for people is what to do if the virus makes its way to their community.
On a college campus it is especially worrisome due to the fact that there are so many students living in such close proximity to each other.
Director of Health Services Kerri Lauchner said Cal Lutheran has guidelines in place in the case Ebola or any deadly disease was to make its way to campus.
“CLU has a Pandemic Flu plan that would apply not just to influenza as it can be adapted to other contagious diseases,” Lauchner said.
The physicians at health services are also staying up to date with the Ebola story to know what symptoms to be on the lookout for and the correct protocol to follow in case the situation arises.
“If a patient has symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, or diarrhea that could indicate Ebola as well as many other illness we will ask about travel history,” Lauchner said. “If that patient has travelled in the past 3 weeks to the countries where Ebola is being transmitted then we would contact the Ventura County Public Health Department for guidance.”
For further information on the Ebola virus go to www.cdc.gov
Published October 15, 2014