The Obama administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have moved to tamp down worries over Ebola even as the number of cases continues to accelerate. However, many doctors and researchers say there are ominous signs about what the future holds regarding the deadly virus.
Here, according to health experts, are nine reasons to fear Ebola:
1. U.S. hospitals are unprepared.
A new survey found that 94 percent of American hospitals are unprepared for an Ebola patient. Of 1,039 medical centers surveyed, only about 6 percent said they were "well-prepared," according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
"The results of the poll paint a disturbing picture, and point to an urgent need to bolster infection prevention resources in healthcare facilities," Katrina Crist, CEO of APIC, said during a press conference announcing the results.
2. One form of Ebola has already mutated to an airborne disease.
David Sanders, associate professor of biological sciences at Purdue University who has done extensive Ebola research, notes that the strain of the virus at the center of the outbreak in West Africa can only be spread by exposure to bodily fluids. But Sanders tells Newsmax that Ebola does have the potential to mutate so that it can spread by air like a cold or flu.
In fact, this has already happened with one strain of the virus, Ebola-Reston, that is not involved in the current outbreak. This disease came to Reston, Virginia., in 1989, when a shipment of infected macaques was imported from the Philippines. The disease spread from the macaques to other monkeys housed at a quarantine facility. The infected monkeys all died and four workers at the quarantine facility tested positive for the disease.
The workers never got sick and Ebola-Reston turned out to be the only one of the five forms of Ebola not harmful to humans. But it does show that a virus in the Ebola family can be spread through the air, Sanders says.
3. There is huge potential for spread in Asia.
Health experts are especially concerned that the longer the Ebola outbreak rages in West Africa, the greater chance a traveler infected with the virus will touch down in Asia, a region where billions live in poverty, in crowded conditions, and with public health systems that are often very weak.
"This is a nontreatable disease with a very high mortality rate. And even a country like the United States has not been able to completely prevent it," said Yatin Mehta, a critical care specialist at the Medanta Medicity hospital near New Delhi, India. "The [India] government is trying. They are preparing and they are training, but our record of disaster management has been very poor in the past."
4. The CDC predicts 1.4 million cases by January.
The number of Ebola cases could reach 1.4 million in West Africa by the end of January, according to the CDC. To put this in perspective, an equivalent rate in the U.S. population would be almost 45 million people nationally.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden warned this month that Ebola is spreading so rapidly it could become a global pandemic to rival AIDS if it is not contained.
5. Ebola is transmissible by droplets.
The CDC notes that Ebola is not spread through the air like the cold or flu. But it may be spread via airborne "droplets" from an infected person to another in close proximity.
Here’s the difference between the two modes of transmission:
This can occur when virus particles are discharged into the air and remain for long periods of time. Droplet particles from a cold or flu, for instance, can survive for long time periods outside the body and on dry surfaces. Infected particles can enter via the lungs of a healthy person, causing the disease. Ebola is not spread this way.
This occurs when larger droplets of virus-laden mucus or saliva are discharged into the air such as from a sneeze and come into direct contact with the nose, mouth, or eyes of a healthy person, causing infection. This type of transmission occurs when proximity is very close (within 3 feet). Ebola can potentially be spread this way, experts believe, perhaps on planes or other types of public transportation.
6. The incubation period is long.
The time it takes a person exposed to Ebola to suffer symptoms and become contagious can range from two to 21 days. What’s more, new research suggests the 21-day quarantine recommended by the CDC for Ebola patients to minimize the risk of spreading the virus may be too short.
A Drexel University study
concludes that 21 days might not be enough to completely prevent the spread of the virus, estimating a 12 percent chance that someone could be infected even after the three-week quarantine.
7. Health workers have been infected despite protective equipment.
Many healthcare workers who have been treating Ebola victims —
including 16 members of the Doctors Without Borders staff —
have contracted the virus even though they have followed established guidelines for wearing protective suits, masks, gloves, and other equipment.
Even the makers of such specialized equipment say it doesn’t offer 100 percent protection. In addition, donning and removing protective suits and masks can be tricky, experts say.
8. The Ebola virus can live up to 50 days on certain surfaces.
Under certain conditions at low temperatures, the Ebola virus can remain viable on surfaces for up 50 days, according to a study by the U.K.’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory. Tests of the virus showed certain strains can remain on surfaces for nearly two months. The CDC notes that Ebola typically lives on “dry” surfaces like doorknobs and tables for only a few hours. But the U.K. research discovered it can survive for more than seven weeks on certain cold surfaces.
9. Ebola is incurable and there is no known treatment.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Ebola, despite a frenzy of drug company research.
Two experimental drugs have been used to treat patients in the current outbreak. ZMapp, being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., has not yet been tested in humans. It is a combination of three different monoclonal antibodies that bind to the protein of the Ebola virus. A second experimental drug, Brincidofovir, has also been used to treat some patients. A third treatment that uses antibodies taken from the blood of individuals who have recovered from Ebola has also been effective in some patients.
Ebola vaccines are being investigated and could become available next year. However, even if they prove successful in trials, there are major technological hurdles to overcome to produce and distribute them.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.