Photo from Centers for Disease Control
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard that a man was diagnosed with Ebola up in Dallas on Tuesday. For anyone that has ever seen Outbreak, this may seem like a good time to panic, but that's what both experts and politicians are urging everyone not to do.
Dr. Charles Ericsson, the infectious disease specialist for Harris Health System and UT Health, understands why people might get nervous about the disease. "It's an outbreak of a vile disease for which there is no treatment and no vaccine, and so it gets everybody's attention. People assume that the fact that it kills at such a high level must mean it's quite transmissible. It's not," he says. While it's easy for people, particularly medical workers, to be infected in places like West Africa, the cause has more to do with their lack of resources than the infectious nature of the disease, he says.
The disease is transmitted by secretions and excretions of the body -- blood, sweat, feces, semen, mucous or urine -- so it takes a decent amount of direct contact to become infected, according to the CDC. In the case of the Dallas patient, identified by the Liberian government as Thomas Eric Duncan, he helped take a pregnant woman to a hospital in Liberia just four days before catching a flight to the United States, according to the New York Times.
The folks at Harris Health have been keeping an eye on the disease and preparing for the chance of having to deal with it for months, he says. "We've already got policies in place about how to triage people with fevers, starting with asking whether they've been in other countries," he says.More »