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No doubt you've been following (or at least heard about) the stories on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Organizations like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) can provide you with more in-depth information and updates regarding the outbreak, but for a quick guide to what's happening, here's everything you need to know:
What is Ebola?
Ebola is actually a group of viruses that cause hemorrhagic fever, which means it leads to bleeding inside and outside of the body. It can impair kidney and liver function and the mortality rate can be as high as 90 percent.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure and no vaccine. The only thing officials can do is contain in the outbreak and raise awareness about precautionary measures. However, the WHO is reporting that several vaccines are currently being tested.
How do people get it?
Through the spread of bodily fluids, such as blood, mucus and saliva. It is not an airborne disease.
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Where is the outbreak?
The epidemic is in West Africa, specifically Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and Liberia. It started in March of 2014, and according to the WHO, there are currently 1,440 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola and over 800 deaths.
Why is everyone freaking out about it?
Besides the fact that Ebola is a very deadly, incurable disease, this is the worst outbreak since the disease was first discovered in 1976. And two Americans were recently infected and brought back to the U.S. for treatment, and that has people worried they could spread it here.
Who were the two Americans who were infected?
Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, recently tested positive. He had been in Liberia working with Ebola patients since September 2013. Nancy Writebol, 59, an aid worker with the group Serving in Mission, also contracted the disease.
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Where exactly are they being treated?
They were both given experimental serums while still in West Africa, and last week they were both brought to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for further treatment and observation.
Should I be worried about them coming here?
According to experts, no. Dr. Bruce S. Ribner of Emory University said in a press conference that they took "every precaution that we know and that our colleagues at the CDC know to ensure that there is no spread of this virus pathogen."
Could the outbreak spread to America?
Experts insist that the chances of an Ebola epidemic in the United States are very low. It's spreading rapidly in West Africa because of the poor conditions, the lack of experience among the workers handling the situation and villages refusing to work with health organizations. Officials are confident that they can contain the outbreak to West Africa. There are currently no cases of anyone contracting Ebola in the U.S.
Is America ready if an outbreak does occur?
Yes. According to the CDC, any hospital following the infection control recommendations are able to isolate patients in private rooms and are capable of safely treating the Ebola virus.