From Catholic.com (source link): A patient in a Dallas area hospital has been confirmed as ill with the Ebola virus. This is the first case of a person in the United States being infected with the virus without being deliberately brought into the country for treatment. It demonstrates that Ebola is capable of entering the United States through infected persons traveling from abroad, despite current precautions.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta have confirmed the first natural case of Ebola in the United States. A man who recently visited Liberia, where the disease is active, has brought the illness to Dallas.
The man apparently exhibited no symptoms of the disease when he boarded his flight, and in fact symptoms did not appear until four or five days after he arrived home, according to the CDC. The patient was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Sunday. It is not believed that any other individuals have been infected, although it remains a possibility. Officials have admitted that he was sent home after an initial visit to the hospital where he could have infected others. It wasn’t until two days after his initial visit that he was admitted as an Ebola case.
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Although little is known about the victim, it is thought his prognosis in a modern hospital is good. It is unlikely the disease will spread and the incident should pass with little danger to the rest of the nation. Even if he infected others around him, those cases will be known and contained.
However, that does not mean there’s no reason to worry. For while the media and public officials are downplaying the current incident and reassuring the public of their safety, there lurks a truth that absolutely nobody wants to acknowledge.
The outbreak has gone too far, and it cannot be stopped.
As of September 29, the CDC has documented 6,574 cases of Ebola in which 3,091 deaths have been recorded. The present outbreak exceeds all other outbreaks combined. It is widely believed that far more people have Ebola than are recorded and that the death toll is much higher. Because people in Africa have a distrust of government officials and healthcare systems and because doctors, medical support personnel, and essential items are in short supply, and best practices are not well followed, the disease is almost certainly raging out of control across West Africa.
These are known challenges and nobody is surprised by them. These problems are not the reason why Ebola will continue to spread beyond control.
Officials are talking about the known problems. It has also come into vogue to talk about other diseases, such as malaria, which will certainly kill millions of people this year in Africa alone. Yes, Malaria is much more widespread and a bigger killer than Ebola.
However, there are two little facts about Ebola which are buried in the commotion and nobody will share. More importantly, there is nothing that we can do to stop these problems.
The first is that Ebola is not spread by humans alone. It is also spread by small mammals. Bats are commonly cited as a likely host for the disease. It is unclear how many other animals serve as vectors. There’s no reason to disbelieve that Ebola cannot be transmitted from a human, either alive or dead, back into animals. We’ve sent troops to Africa to help quarantine people, but corralling infected animals may prove far more difficult. As these animals migrate and move, they can potentially infect other people, far outside of quarantine zones.
Yet even this fear is a little far-fetched. There are no documented cases of human to animal transmission, so this fact that should keep us awake at night.
Instead, the fact that should keep us worried is that Ebola is a sexually transmitted disease.
According to the World Health Organization fact sheet on Ebola, the disease can be transmitted via semen for up to seven weeks following cure. That means a person may recover from the disease, but if they engage in sexual relations too soon after recovery, they may infect others.
Americans treat celibacy as an anachronism. Immerse yourself in American pop culture for only a few minutes and this will become obvious. Some African people also behave promiscuously, as a matter of culture. Different cultures have different sexual mores.
Promiscuous communities are far more likely to perpetuate and spread the disease, even if it has allegedly been “eradicated” in one area. Give people a chance to spread the disease through their relations and suddenly new infections will appear where there were none before.
We can warn patients to refrain from sex after being cured of the disease, but this isn’t likely to prevent all people from engaging in sexual relations.
The simple fact is that Ebola is going to spread, even in areas where it was thought to be cured. We simply cannot control the disease beyond a certain point. A village we can corral and quarantine. Entire cities and nations, we simply cannot.
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