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Houston's concern with the deadly Ebola virus

The deadly Ebola outbreak in Nigeria and neighboring areas may seem worlds away but Bush International Airport has a flight going to and coming in from Nigeria every day. Customs agents and airline crew are keeping an eye on passengers from West African countries for signs of the illness and the Centers for Disease Control has a quarantine station set up in the airport with instruction for disinfecting the plane and managing passengers suspected of carrying the virus. However, persons infected with the deadly virus may take up to 3 weeks to show symptoms.

The good news is that, according to the CDC, infected people without symptoms are not yet contagious. The virus is also not air-borne, water-borne, or food-borne. It is transmitted through body fluids or objects contaminated with body fluids.

Symptoms are often severe and include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, abnormal bleeding, fever, headache, weakness, red eyes, skin rash, and achy joints and muscles. And only about 10% of patients survive Ebola.

If anyone suspected of having Ebola enters the United States, the Health Alert Notice issued by the CDC reminds healthcare workers of the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus and how to test and isolate patients.

As of July 31, the CDC is encouraging citizens to defer unnecessary travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa where more than a thousand people have been infected.

The National Laboratory, on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, is the only academic lab in the country equipped to research the deadliest biological agents. With the current outbreak of one of the deadliest viruses on earth and its high risk for bio-terrorism, scientists there have been working with the Ebola virus for 10 years and are scrambling now for a vaccine and treatment. At present, there is no cure for Ebola but symptoms are treated by maintaining fluids, oxygen status, and blood pressure, and controlling any other complications.

The World Health Organization provides more information on Ebola.


Centers for Disease Control

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