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Disease Expert: Ebola 'Hard to Catch,' Pandemic 'Unlikely'

By    |   Monday, 04 Aug 2014 06:44 PM

Ebola, while deadly, is not an airborne disease like SARS or measles, and contracting it requires direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood and vomit, a professor and biosafety expert told Newsmax TV on Monday.

Dr. Stephen S. Morse, professor of epidemiology and chairman of Columbia University's Institutional Biosafety Committee, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that an Ebola pandemic is "extremely unlikely simply because Ebola does not transmit very well and, despite the number of cases we're seeing, it’s actually very hard to catch."

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An outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever centered in three African countries — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — has killed 887 people and put authorities worldwide on alert for travelers from the continent who may unwittingly carry the virus.

An elderly woman who died in London on Saturday after a flight from Sierra Leone tested negative for Ebola, British health officials said on Sunday.

But authorities in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, confirmed a second Ebola case there: a Nigerian doctor who had treated another patient, a Liberian-American man named Patrick Sawyer, who died of the disease.

Meanwhile, the American physician Kent Brantly, who received a "last ditch" experimental drug after contracting Ebola in Liberia, was reported to be in stable condition in Atlanta at a disease unit run jointly by Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A second infected U.S. aid worker in Liberia, Nancy Writebol, who received the same experimental drug, is to arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Morse told "MidPoint" that the reports so far about Brantly appear encouraging, and he estimated that "in a week or so we'll know if he's out of the woods."

Morse rejected any suggestion that Brantly and Writebol, both of whom worked with the aid group Samaritan's Purse, are "coming here to die," and said their treatment in the U.S. is an extension of care they received in Africa.

Morse said the hospitals in western Africa treating Ebola patients are "quite specialized and pretty advanced," especially those run by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders.

What Brantly and Writebol will receive back home is "more attention" and "higher-tech, intensive care — not fundamentally different, but a better infrastructure, so they can be monitored more often and perhaps [receive] some experimental therapies that are not available elsewhere," he said.

The common denominator among those sickened with Ebola since March is "close contact," said Morse. He said healthcare workers, family caregivers and people who prepare bodies for burial have proven to be in the greatest danger.

"These are the people right in the line of fire," he said. "They're coming in contact with infected bodily fluids or infected tissues from the patient without having adequate protection such as gloves, masks and so on to prevent them from having this splashed onto them or [from] touching these infected materials.

"That's really what it takes because Ebola does not spread through the air," said Morse.

"Casual contact — being a few feet away walking past an Ebola patient — is probably not going to give anyone Ebola," he said. "You really do have to essentially touch it or have it splashed into your eyes — something like that."

Morse said Ebola-tainted blood that's been exposed to air for a few hours, and is pooled on a surface such as a table or floor, can infect a person whose skin comes into contact with it. But even that is "very low-risk," he said.

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Ebola, while deadly, is not an airborne disease like SARS or measles, and contracting it requires direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood and vomit, a professor and biosafety expert told Newsmax TV on Monday.
ebola, control, disease, Morse, expert
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2014-44-04
Monday, 04 Aug 2014 06:44 PM
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