Compiled by the Retriever Weekly Staff
Last year around this time, if one were to hear a cough or a sneeze or any weary look it would be expected that whoever it was must have a simple cold. Now, due to recent events, those same symptoms could be noted and a deadly disease would come to mind. The Ebola virus — once so distant and foreign to this country’s citizens — has now seemingly touched base in not only America but in the greater Washington D.C. area as well. It has caused an uproar which some believe to be justified and others do not.
The first step to determining whether the reaction is justified is knowing the facts of Ebola and how it spreads. The Ebola virus is an infectious disease discovered around 40 years ago near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ebola is marked by fever and severe internal bleeding. Although extremely contagious, it is only spread through direct contact with infected body fluids — meaning that those who contract the disease usually have made direct contact with another infected person’s mouth, nose, blood, vomit or sexual fluids. So, although it is not impossible to contract the disease, it is highly improbable to come that close into contact with an Ebola victim, as the epidemic is still mainly affecting West Africa.
Knowledge in fact may be the most important tool in squelching the Ebola Panic. In a Time article on the recent possibility of an Ebola patient at Howard University in Washington D.C., many described their reactions as scared and “shocked” as Howard University student Quencey Hickerson described her own when she first heard the news. “ I didn’t expect the virus to spread so quickly,” said Hickerson. Yet it had not spread that quickly as it was later found out that the patient did not actually have Ebola.
The students could not have that knowledge, though, because of reluctance of the Howard University hospital to release information on the patient’s case. It is that same reluctance that has lead many to believe Ebola is on Howard’s campus, which is simply not true.
What about the teacher in Texas? Many retort in still making the case for how fast the disease can and is spreading. That teacher, Eric Duncan, is a native of Liberia, the West African Country hit hardest by the virus. What is even more relevant information necessary to know is that he had recently been in Liberia in late September.
Typically it takes Ebola anywhere from two to 21 days to show symptoms of Ebola. So when Eric Duncan was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital with symptoms of Ebola, it had been due to his interactions in his home country. Contrary to many who thought the disease found its way on American soil through the air.
Not everyone is in a state of panic. UMBC student Sim Cleveland-Rivers says “I think the amount of reaction is a bit absurd because people who are worried about it or very worried about it, and with the exception of the Howard case it really has not popped up around here.”
One of the worst parts of Ebola might be the panic that could ensue. Going forward, it is imperative that those who are scared know what Ebola is and how it is spread. That knowledge will be the people’s best ally with dealing with the disease.