Originating over seven months ago, the largest recorded Ebola outbreak continues to spread, causing worldwide alarm. Ebola virus disease, also known as EVD, is rightly feared as a contagious disease with an unusually high mortality rate. There have been more than 4,900 deaths caused by Ebola since March 25 in this most recent outbreak, and the World Health Organization has determined the mortality rate to be around 50 percent.
Fortunately, unless you have plans to fly to Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia within the next few weeks, you can rest assured in the knowledge that a mere three individuals have been diagnosed with EVD in the United States over the course of this most recent outbreak. According to NBC News, only one man, Thomas Eric Duncan, died from the disease on American soil, and the two healthcare workers who contracted Ebola through contact with Duncan have both recovered as of last Friday.
Additionally, even though the mortality rate rests around 50 percent, this most recent outbreak is less lethal than the infamous 2003 outbreak in Congo. In the 2003 outbreak, 128 individuals succumbed to its staggering 90 percent fatality rate, according to the WHO website.
Furthermore, early diagnosis and prevention clearly demonstrate an increase in the survival rate among Ebola patients. To further ease the minds of those fearing a real-life version of “Contagion,” Ebola is transmitted solely through physical contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids and is not airborne. The disease is not contagious until the telltale symptoms, including rashes, fevers or bleeding, appear.
Since the first American diagnosis, the Centers for Disease Control and certain state governments have made concerted efforts to minimalize risk to the American population. These efforts have proved effective thus far. Five U.S. airports currently screen travelers inbound from West Africa for the possibility of having contracted Ebola: John F. Kennedy International, Washington Dulles International, Newark Liberty International, Hartsfield-Jackson International and — perhaps most importantly to those at Wheaton College — O’Hare International. Dozens of laboratories and hospitals stand ready to receive Ebola patients and to test for possible patients. Some states, including Illinois, require that medical professionals coming back from West Africa undergo a mandatory quarantine for 21 days — the longest recorded incubation time before Ebola symptoms began to show in a patient.
However, while most Americans can accurately consider themselves out of harm’s way, other countries, especially in West Africa, are seeing a tremendous amount of death, with one out of every two infected people dying from the disease. West Africa recorded around 10,000 Ebola diagnoses from March through last Monday, according to the New York Times, and the numbers are still climbing.
This current strain of the virus originated around the village of Guéckédou, Guinea, which is the epicenter of a currently growing mass of Ebola diagnoses. Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guinea’s neighboring countries, have shown marked growth of the disease within their borders.
Though multiple African countries continue to lose lives to Ebola, Nigeria, which reported a number of cases, was declared Ebola-free by the CDC on Oct. 20. Nigeria stands as a small symbol of hope for countries still battling the disease.
Multiple countries have expressed their desires to assist in the struggle against the biggest outbreak of Ebola in history, and not simply by sending medical teams to tend to the ill. In addition to the hundreds of doctors that have served or are serving in West Africa since the outbreak began in March, Christians around the world are uniting to prayerfully combat the spread of the virus. World Vision has sent hundreds of medical relief supplies into the affected country of Sierra Leone, according to the organization’s website. World Vision and other organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse are asking for monetary donations that will proceed to the medical missions already taking place in high-risk countries. This means that those without medical expertise can still contribute financially to the well-equipped organizations that are sending medical professionals to the front lines.
Even though people in the U.S. do not need to worry about their exposure to Ebola, the EVD epidemic continues to terrorize thousands of families and communities in West Africa, causing damages that can never be reversed.