Woods: Prevent the spread of Ebola

Zoë Woods

There has been a lot of hype in the news lately about the devastation Ebola has caused around the world. So much has been talked about that you may feel like turning a deaf ear toward all of the discussions and constant updates, but that is the last thing you should do.

Shepard Smith, a Fox News anchor delivered a message to the public elaborating on the extent to which the Ebola virus has effected the United States. He stresses in the video that the virus is nothing to worry about and there are more important things that should occupy our thoughts.

It is true that there will be a time to panic. That time is when Americans are contracting the virus daily, but that time is not now. However, it would be irresponsible to just live life out normally and not take proper precautions to stop the virus in its tracks.

The solution to these problems is to stop Ebola at its source. By restricting travel from heavily infected areas and implementing protocol to keep surrounding citizens safe, the chances of keeping Ebola off American shores is a lot higher.

This effort becomes difficult to grasp when those infected with Ebola who reside in the U.S. don’t take into consideration the people living around them.

“The Ebola virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission, and the average Ebola case fatality rate is around 50 percent”, according to the World Health Organization.

The organization also states that community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilization.

The Center for Disease Control also plays a crucial role in defending Americans from this deadly virus.

However, it becomes near impossible for them to do their job when people who are infected with the disease don’t comply with the guidelines the CDC has given them, namely quarantine protocols.

It is requested by the CDC that persons who have potentially contracted the virus participate in a voluntary quarantine, which means that person should remain in isolation for a period of 21 days as a precaution to those around them.

The timeline of 21 days was determined through research done by the World Health Organization. The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days for the Ebola virus.

If those guidelines aren’t followed willingly, the people living in the surrounding areas are put at risk. Now, the CDC cannot enforce quarantine without a court order so that they don’t infringe on citizen’s rights. So it is up to the potentially infected person to stay in isolation until there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that the virus hasn’t infected them.

That appeared to be a tall order for nurse Kaci Hickox of Maine who returned home from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa. Showing her defiance for the guidelines, she decided to take a bike ride with her boyfriend around the area outside her home.

Hickox tested negative for Ebola, but officials in both Maine and New Jersey still wanted to place Hickox in quarantine after responding to public fear of the virus. Eventually she won a legal fight against Maine over the quarantine, according to an article in “Time.”

Those people in Maine had the right to fear for their safety against Ebola. If Hickox had stayed in quarantine for the 21-day period and made 100 percent sure she did not have the virus, the drama that came with her legal case would not have taken place.

But there is another thing to think about: the 3,000 troops and heath care workers fighting against the virus in West Africa right now. What will happen when they return home?

I have no doubt in our resources or the effort the U.S. will put forth to try to cure the sick. However, what sort of panic will ensue if those who have come back from West Africa don’t want to follow the voluntary quarantine guidelines?

Food for thought as the battle continues to rage in West Africa where, according to the CDC, more than 4,900 people have been killed by the virus and more than 13,000 total cases have been reported.