Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed on U.S. soil, and is investigating a second, it’s easy to panic. But don’t don the hazmat suit just yet – experts say most Americans don’t have to worry about exposure to the worst Ebola outbreak on record.
The CDC estimates that the virus, which has been spreading rapidly in West Africa, could spread to between 550,000 and 1.4 million people in the next four months without proper intervention. Ebola has taken the lives of more than 3,300 people and nearly 7,200 cases have been reported since the outbreak began in March.
Still, Ebola is actually much harder to catch than the cold or the flu because it’s spread only through blood and other bodily fluids, rather than through the air. The people most at risk are medical workers and others who have been in direct contact with affected individuals.
Plus, the U.S. health care system and burial processes are more developed than those in West Africa, making it highly unlikely the disease could spread through this country the way it has spread there. In a statement yesterday, CDC director Thomas R. Frieden said he is “confident we will stop Ebola in its tracks here in the United States.”
Health officials have been screening up to 100 people in Texas who may have been in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national currently in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
If you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola outbreak, here’s how the CDC recommends keeping safe:
- Wash or sanitize your hands and avoid contact with blood or bodily fluids.
- Do not handle items that may have been in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
- Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated.
- If you believe you’ve been exposed to Ebola, monitor your health for 21 days and seek immediate medical care if you develop symptoms.
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