Should You be Worried About Ebola?
In case you somehow haven’t heard, there’s an ebola epidemic going on in western Africa. It seems impossible that people may not know; since everyday, we at the Medicine Shoppe hear a little more about the outbreak and how it’s causing problems in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Ebola seems to cover facebook with little panic attacks and the news channels with large ones. And, especially after the news of two infected Americans having been brought home, the anxiety seems to only rise. However, with all the fear and misinformation floating around, we’d like to remind everyone to take a deep breath and repeat slowly, “I am not at risk for ebola.” If you have friends that are worried, have them repeat it too and here is why.
It’s not that contagious. People are treating ebola like it’s as catchy as chickenpox and that by breathing next to the wrong person they may find themselves infected. Fortunately for everyone, this isn’t the case. The chickenpox virus is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneeze; the ebola virus is more like HIV – it spreads through contact with bodily fluids. You can only become infected by handling the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of a sick or dead animal or person. That means no contact with body fluid equals no problem! This is true even for patient zero. While chickenpox often seems to just come out of the air (literally), even the original ebola patient has to handle a sick or dead animal to contract the virus. To put it simply, even if you were sitting across the aisle on the same flight as the infected Americans returning home, you still wouldn’t catch it unless you came in contact with their blood and other secretions.
So why it an issue? Ebola is a problem because of its death rate and the lack of sophisticated technology and sanitary standards in the areas it is currently. In Canada, if someone did manage to contract ebola by picking up an infected bat or something, it’s extremely unlikely that the would be able to pass it on to someone else. They would be put in isolation at the hospital, and the nursing staff and doctors could use the necessary safety equipment to protect themselves. We know this is true, since the Americans we mentioned earlier have now been released with a clean bill of health and none of their health workers fell ill. However, in western Africa, the fancy equipment and technology is not available. Health workers are working extremely hard to try and aid their patients, but they are not able to keep themselves safe. Many come in contact with the patients’ fluid and contract the virus themselves.
How can you help? Doctor without borders, one of the organizations spearheading the fight against ebola, actually has as much money as they need for this particular case – at least at the moment. However, you can help by donating to them, so they can help with other epidemics in the future. You can also help by educating others who are worried and by supporting research for vaccines and remedies for this virus as no approved cure yet exists. (A remedy has been created, and it is thought to be a contributor to the infected Americans surviving, but much more testing is still necessary).
It’s always a bit scary when epidemics strike. In a globalized, well-connected world, we humans have a tendency to worry about medical issues even if they can’t actually hurt us. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be on the look out for strange symptoms and take care of our health even here where widespread epidemic is less frequent. If you’re looking for an over the counter remedy for a symptom you’re feeling or if you are worried about one of the medications you are on, contact your doctor or a pharmacist that you trust. We’d love to answer your questions: 403-455-9939.