Researcher says Ebola Unlikely to Spread in US - 'This is a virus that does not easily spread from one human to another. It requires contact, direct contact with bodily fluids. We should be more worried for the people in West Africa.'
How worried should we be about this first case of Ebola in the U.S.?
We should not be worried for ourselves. We should be more worried for the people in West Africa. This is a virus that does not easily spread from one human to another. It requires contact, direct contact with bodily fluids. It can be stopped with good hospital conditions and barrier nursing, meaning masks, goggles, rubber gloves, etc. (In photo, Hazmat teams descended on apartments where Thomas Duncan had stayed on disinfect items including his car).
There is only the slimmest likelihood that it can escape that containment in the U.S. There's a far greater chance that we'll die of influenza in the next year than that we'll die of Ebola virus. But we should still be very concerned for what's going on in West Africa.
I suppose the next question is: Why are people in West Africa touching bodies or getting bodily fluids on each other? How is it spreading there? And why?
The severity of this outbreak in West Africa reflects not only the transmissibility of the disease, but also the sad circumstances of poverty and the chronic lack of medical care, infrastructure, and supplies. That's really what this is telling us: that we need to try harder to imagine just what it's like to be poor in Africa. One of the consequences of being poor in Africa, especially in a country like Liberia or Sierra Leone, which have gone through a lot of political turmoil and have weak governance and a shortage of medical resources, is that the current outbreak could turn into an epidemic.
It's being spread because people are taking care of their loved ones at home. They're touching them, they're feeding them, they're washing them, they're cleaning up the vomit and the diarrhea that Ebola generates. That's a classic circumstance in which even health care workers are getting infected.
In addition, there are burial practices that involve washing the bodies and in some cases cleaning out the body cavities. In some cases, the funeral practices also involve a final touch or even a final kiss of the deceased person. And one of the things that's particularly nefarious about Ebola is that it continues to live in a dead person for some period of time after death. A person who's been dead for a day or two may still be seething with Ebola virus. So funeral practices can be a big factor in allowing it to be transmitted.
It's a combination of horrible circumstances. But the primary factor is poverty [which is caused by white supremacy/racism].