And so, future researcher, on this day, October 15, 2014, there is a great fear looming over the United States of a coming plague caused by a terrible virus that is ravaging Africa and has infected its first two victims here in our country.
Ebola is the name of the virus and also of the horrific hemorrhagic fever it causes. Ebola fever has a 50-90 percent mortality rate and there's no cure for it.
For the past few weeks Ebola and it's lightning-swift spread across the African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone has been front-page news and the top story in every news broadcast, every day, all day long; and then last week the news broke that a nurse at Texas Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas was infected while caring for an Ebola victim who came to this country from Liberia with the disease. This morning a second health care worker at Texas Presyterian who also cared for the original Ebola patient was diagnosed with the infection. The plague has arrived.
Or has it?
It's true that hospitals all around the United States are now preparing for the Ebola invasion, and I've been as frightened as anyone about Ebola sweeping across our country like a scourge from the Middle-Ages. I have horrible daymares about my husband, my children, my grandchildren, all my loved-ones being stricken with Ebola fever and of me having to watch them suffer, forbidden to go near them, helpless.
I've had the feeling that as we all go with our normal, happy lives we're just waiting for the monster epidemic to hit.
Or at least I did have that feeling until last night when I began trolling around the internet to find out more about Ebola than I'd been picking up from the news and all the fear-filled discussions with just about everybody I've had occasion to talk to.
Here's what I found out:
1. While Ebola is extremely infectious, in that it multiplies so greatly inside its host, it's not very contagious as viruses go.
2. Ebola is not air-borne, you can't catch it like a cold or the flu, or from food or water or just from being around an infected person. There's only one way to catch Ebola, and that's from direct contact with the bodily fluids of of an infected person.
3. Despite all the gossip, the chance of Ebola mutating into an air-borne virus is about zero.
5. Ebola is contagious only when the infected person has the symptoms. So you can't catch Ebola from an infected person in the period before their symptoms show up.
4. A virus that is efficient at survival doesn't generally kill its host; it just hangs around in the host for a while, which gives the host the opportunity to come into contact with another hosts for the virus to jump to. Ebola is not an efficient virus because it kills off its host, and kills it too quickly for the host to spread the virus around very much.
6. Because Ebola can only be spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person and can't live long outside a host, it should be a fairly easy virus to contain. It's virulence in Africa is due to the closeness with which people live and lack of health care in the big cities where the initial outbreaks began.
And so my anxiety about an Ebola plague sweeping across the United States has been calmed, even though I know that only God who made all creatures great and microscopic and you, future archivist, know whether the United States ended up falling prey to the epidemic that has been so mercilessly afflicting our brothers and sisters in Africa.
My fear has been replaced by the conviction that, while we in the United States of course need to be prepared for the arrival of Ebola in this country, our nation needs to come together with every other nation and health organization on the planet to fight Ebola in Africa, its source .
The United States is sending 3,000 troops to Liberia to provide support in battling the epidemic. Finally a war I can condone.
1. "Scientists Rein In Fears of a Virus Whose Mysteries Tend To Invite Speculation", The New York Times, October 14, 2014
2. "Five Reasons Why You Shouldn't Be Freaking Out About Catching Ebola," Jason Butler, Elite DAily, October 15, 2014
3. "Ebola, The Dumb Virus", Chisom Ojukwu, March 29, 2014
4. "The Hot Zone Questions, 21 Terms by mcrowley", Quizlet, 2014
5. "U.S. Sending 3,000 Troops to Africa to Battle Ebola", Military.com News, September 16, 2014
6. 610 WTVN news, October 15, 2014