WASHINGTON (AP) — Ebola has arrived in the United States and people are frightened.
The nation’s top infectious diseases expert says it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about a virus that kills so fast and is ravaging parts of West Africa.
“People who are scared, I say, ‘We don’t take lightly your fear. We respect it. We understand it,'” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.
But Fauci emphasizes that the United States is different from African nations whose fragile health care systems have been overwhelmed by Ebola. Scientists know how to stop the virus from spreading with adequate resources, he says.
In the U.S., Fauci maintains, “We won’t have an outbreak.”
That’s not to say the first Ebola case diagnosed within the United States — a traveler from Liberia who began feeling the effects after arriving in Dallas — will be the only one.
The government took measures this past week to ensure hospitals are ready and is considering what more should be done.
Despite some initial missteps in Dallas, tried-and-true methods are underway: tracking everyone who came into contact with the infected man and isolating anyone who shows symptoms.
What to know about Ebola in America:
THERE’S GOING TO BE A LOT OF TALK
Expect to hear news reports in the coming days about people who are being cared for as potential Ebola cases. That doesn’t mean they have the disease.
Doctors and hospitals are isolating individuals they believe could be at risk. That’s based on a combination of their symptoms and recent travel from a country where Ebola is present.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consulted with hospitals about more than 100 potentially suspicious cases in recent months. More than a dozen were worrisome enough to merit Ebola blood tests. Only the Dallas patient had Ebola.
HOW IT SPREADS
Ebola doesn’t spread easily like the flu, a cold or measles.
The virus isn’t airborne. Instead, it’s in a sick person’s bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, urine, semen or saliva. Another person can catch the disease by getting those germs into his own body, perhaps by wiping his eyes or through a cut in the skin.
Bodily fluids aren’t contagious until the infected person begins to feel sick. The initial symptoms are easily confused with other illnesses, however: fever, headaches, flu-like body aches and abdominal pain. Vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes bleeding follow as the disease progresses, increasing the risk to others.
In West Africa, the disease has spread quickly to family members who tended the sick or handled their bodies after death, and infected doctors and nurses working under punishing conditions, without proper equipment. Bed sheets or clothing contaminated by bodily fluids also could spread the disease.