Two Americans in West Africa are among those infected with the Ebola virus, one of the deadliest viruses to in history. The latest Ebola outbreak is the deadliest to date, and there is no known treatment for the virus. Patients are given lots of liquids and pain medication and doctors - pray.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says Ebola is a Viral Hemorrhagic Fever that kills humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) quickly, taking anywhere between 50 percent and 90 percent of victims, depending on the strain.
On Saturday, the first American reported to have contracted the disease was identified as Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, from Fort Worth, Texas, according to the North Carolina-based charity Samaritan's Purse. Dr. Brantly symptoms included intermittent fever and body aches.
The second person to test positive for Ebola was identified as Nancy Writebol, a missionary worker employed by SIM. In a statement on Sunday, Samaritan's Purse said:
“Writebol is employed by SIM in Liberia and was helping the joint Samaritan's Purse/SIM team that is treating Ebola patients at the Case Management Center in Monrovia."
On Sunday, Samaritan's Purse said both patients were in stable condition. A SIM spokeswoman, Melissa Strickland told the AFP:
"They're both receiving intensive early treatment, but certainly it's a dangerous situation and a frightening situation."
So far this year, the Ebola epidemic has killed at least 660 people in four west African countries, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says the first recorded Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever 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.
A fact sheet from the National Academies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lists the Ebola virus as a biological agent of concern for terrorist attacks.
Fears of the outbreak spreading have prompted neighboring Nigeria to screen incoming airline passengers for symptoms of the illness. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University said
“It [Ebola] is a very dangerous infection and every medical person who takes care of these people understands, there is a risk, even if you are perfect in using all the gear."
However, Dr. Schaffner said the risk from casual contact from people who have come back from Africa is really zero. Schaffner said:
“It is the fact that you have to have very intimate contact with peoples' bodily fluids that puts you at risk."