Ebola Virus in US? Possible but Not Probable

Ebola’s Escape From Africa Unlikely Though Not Impossible

Ebola, the killer of more than 670 people in four West African countries since February, has spread beyond Africa only once. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen now, infectious disease experts warn. The symptoms appear from two days to three weeks after infection, meaning it’s possible for an infected person who doesn’t feel ill to board a plane, said Ben Neuman, a virologist at the University of Reading in the U.K. Since Ebola in its earliest stages can resemble nothing more than flu, no one else would know either, he said. “One person per plane load would have something that you would possibly call flu-like symptoms,” Neuman said in a telephone interview. “Do you want to detain all those people coming into your airport? Do you have the manpower to do that, and send them all for testing? It’s expensive, and difficult.”

... Ebola virus isn’t carried in the air like tuberculosis or flu, said David Heymann, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Instead it is spread by direct contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily secretions, including vomit, saliva or feces, he said. While an infected person who sneezes or coughs directly in another person’s face could infect that person, Ebola primarily enters the body through tiny cuts or abrasions, or through mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, ears and mouth. The physical effect of the virus makes it less likely to spread through air travel, Neuman said. “If you look at the numbers, there are probably about 300 people currently infected with Ebola virus, and most of those would be too ill to sit up or walk,” Neuman said. “So the odds are small, but it is something that needs to be watched.”
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  1. COULD EBOLA SNEAK ACROSS U.S. BORDER? - Africans passing through Mexico raise new flags in 'out of control' outbreak

    ... What’s more alarming, however, are reports confirmed by the National Border Patrol Council, or NBPC, and United Nations that some of the detainees apprehended attempting to enter the U.S. illegally are from Africa – where the Ebola outbreak is thriving.

  2. Widow: ‘He Could Have Brought Ebola Here’

    Patrick Sawyer was a naturalized U.S. citizen who worked for the Finance Ministry of his native Liberia and returned home to his wife and children in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, whenever he could. He almost certainly would have boarded that flight to Minneapolis had he remained at least outwardly healthy enough not to exhibit symptoms.

    One nightmare scenario would have been for him to go ahead with the birthday party for his daughters even though he was feeling a little flu-ish and maybe dish out cake and ice cream to his little girls before anybody imagined he might be carrying the deadly virus from distant West Africa.

    “He could have brought Ebola here,” his wife, Decontee Sawyer, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

    Patrick had been tending to a sick sister named Princess in Liberia and had not learned the exact nature of her illness until after she died.

    “He knew she was sick and he kept caring for her, but he didn’t know it was Ebola,” Decontee said. “It could have been malaria.”

    He was still grieving when he texted his wife on July 18, but he gave no indication that he was feeling ill. Decontee would wonder if witnessing his sister’s terrible death had left him unable to accept that he could suffer the same fate as a result of trying to aid her.

    “I think he might have been in a state of denial,” Decontee suggested.

    Patrick fell manifestly ill on July 20 during the 6-hour, 40-minute journey via two flights on ASKY Airlines, from Monrovia to Lomé in Togo and on to Lagos, where he was scheduled to attend an economic development conference. He collapsed at the Lagos airport and was placed in isolation at First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, a high-density neighborhood in the teeming city.

  3. Why no vaccine?

    Why is that? Les Funtleyder, portfolio manager at E Squared Asset Management who focuses on healthcare points to two factors. "It's so rare that it's hard to get a population large enough to do a trial," he says, and second, there's "really no commercial incentvie to do it. There's no money in emerging market diseases."

    He explains that in a place like Africa, many people don't have health insurance. Without it, he says, there's no mechanism to pay for an expensive drug; therefore, pharmaceutical companies won't attempt to develop a drug that they won't get paid for.


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