Let's face it. When you first heard about the infamous Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, perhaps you started thinking about "Contagion". You know, the movie starring Matt Damon where his wife comes back on a plane with a mysterious sickness. The one virus that they can't seem to find a cure for, and ends up wiping out a huge segment of the world population and turning everything to chaos. Or maybe you think of the old 90's flick, "Outbreak", when Morgan Freeman just started showing some grey hair and Dustin Hoffman still starred in good movies. Yeah, those were the days.
Or maybe you don't know what to think, so you decide to just not think about. Then you wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night. Your daydreams are even haunted with the likes of "28 Days Later". Could it really be the end of the world, as we know it? Am I really going to be forced to save the world from a zombie apocalypse with my German Shepherd? Maybe it'll be a simple cure like in "World War Z". If Brad Pitt can figure it out, surely the CDC in real life can to, right?
Okay, I may have overblown that one a bit. However, this isn't something to be taken lightly. We're facing a virus in West Africa that has already claimed 2,400 lives, and the World Health Organization announced the other day that the virus would claim another 20,000 in the next six months. You're right, it's no "Outbreak" or "Contagion", at least not yet, but this is no laughing matter. And with the Ebola virus making headline news once again as President Obama announced sending 3,000 military personnel to West Africa to help contain the virus and prevent it from spreading across the world, many of us might be thinking, "Could it really come here?"
What is Ebola?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).
Ebola is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebola virus. When infection occurs, symptoms usually begin abruptly. The first Ebola virus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.
The natural reservoir host of Ebola viruses remains unknown. However, on the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is zoonotic (animal-borne) with bats being the most likely reservoir. Four of the five subtypes occur in an animal host native to Africa.
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
In what may seem to be the most obvious answer, avoid traveling to areas where the virus currently is - in this case, West Africa.
But what if the virus makes its way to the United States? What then?
The Mayo Clinic advises to avoid areas of known outbreaks. If and when Ebola spreads here, do your best to avoid areas where outbreaks could occur. Examples of these areas would be airports, train stations, and other high densely populated areas.
Similar to when dealing with any sickness, wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with infected people. You can also follow infection-control procedures, such as wearing protective clothing, such as gloves, masks, gowns and eye shields. If you know that you have been infected, do your best to isolate yourself from others to prevent the virus from spreading. In the worst-case scenario where the virus has already spread rampantly, avoid handling remains of people who have passed away due to the virus.
Other than that there's not a whole lot you can do other than to enjoy your seemingly comfortable life and hope CDC scientists come up with an effective vaccine for this deadly virus.