Ebola fear continues to span the world

Emily Stearney

Although previously contained in West Africa, the world’s most recent Ebola outbreak has made its way to the United States, forcing the nation’s healthcare system to take extra safety precautions.

Ebola, first discovered in 1976, had been contained to Africa up until a few months ago. Ebola has now come to the US, citizens and health officials have been trying to prevent further spreading of the virus.

West Africa has been experiencing an Ebola outbreak since March of this year, according to the World Health Organization. Other countries in Africa have also been fighting Ebola since its discovery. The Democratic Republic of Congo has consistently reported a higher number of cases than any other country.

The number of reported cases is suspected to be significantly lower than the actual number of cases, making it difficult to determine the severity of the outbreak.

Chinwendu Ozoh, graduate student in Agricultural and Biosystems engineering, explained how to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Ebola spreads really fast by touch and fluids, like blood, sweat or saliva,” Ozoh said.

Ebola’s incubation period, or the time between contracting the virus and showing symptoms, can be up to 21 days. According to the Official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola can only be spread while an infected person is showing symptoms.

Universities, including Kent State, Yale University and the University of Texas have had students or staff who have been tested for Ebola stay at their homes instead of attending class, even after the test results have come back negative, due to extreme caution.

Iowa State has been on alert for potential cases and is prepared to take necessary action. 

“There are no students on campus from the three countries that are currently having epidemics,” said Dr. Cosette Scallon, physician at Thielen Student Health Center.  “The impact on campus is expected to be virtually nonexistent.”

“We have participated in numerous meetings, conference calls and webinars on the topic, and are proceeding with all precautionary recommendations from our partners in public health,” said Samantha Boyd, communications specialist at Thielen Student Health Center.

America isn’t the only country who has taken preventative measures against the spread of Ebola.  Nigeria has recently been declared Ebola-free, thanks in-part to the efforts Nigerian officials have taken to prevent the virus from coming to their country.

Ozoh had lived in Nigeria for 23 years and witnessed the changes healthcare officials have made when he was flying back home.

“I spent an extra 30 minutes at the airport because I had to get checked [for Ebola],” Ozoh said. “During the whole Ebola outbreak, [officials] became really serious.  They installed hand sanitizer [dispensers] almost everywhere. I think they did a really good job of trying to reduce the spread of Ebola.”

Walter Suza, adjunct assistant professor in agronomy, agreed with the steps the US has taken to keep Ebola out of the country.

“This is the best place for medical emergencies,” Suza said regarding America’s healthcare system.  “My concern is research.”

Suza expressed his concern for Ebola research in the U.S. being done in a safe way.

Because no treatment currently exists for the virus, a vaccine seems to be the next step for containing the outbreak. Testing for two potential vaccines is currently underway in small groups in Great Britain, Mali, and Washington D.C.

Although a vaccine might soon be available to the public, Ebola is only a small part of a larger issue in Africa, Suza said. He believes that when clean water, food, and sanitation are not available, combating outbreaks like this becomes much more difficult.

“Ultimately, you’re faced with a problem, but the origin is poverty.” Suza said.  He explained that beating Ebola will take care of the outbreak, but not fix the problem that resulted in the disease being spread so quickly.

“When the health systems are broken, we cannot handle the outbreak,” Suza said.

He said looking at the different components of a poor condition of living can help us better understand the problems that poverty creates. Stopping Ebola will only part of the problem. Attention needs to be paid toward helping fix the source of poverty, not just Ebola, Suza said.

Suza said preparing Africa’s healthcare system is the way the outbreak could be better controlled. 

“We need to contain, find a cure, and come back with education,” Suza said.