<h6> Alisa Vidwans ’15 </h6>

On September 20th, Eric Duncan stepped off a plane from Liberia and fell back into his normal routine in the United States, which included going to work and spending time with his fiancee.  Five days after his return, however, Duncan was experiencing abdominal pain and a low-grade fever.  The doctor present at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital dismissed him as he displayed “flu-like symptoms,” despite the knowledge that Duncan had just returned from a trip to Liberia.  On September 28th, Duncan was rushed to the hospital and put under strict quarantine as doctors feared he may have contracted Ebola. The CDC confirmed their suspicion on the 30th.  Back in mid-September, no one would have guessed that the disease spreading rampantly through Africa would ever reach America. But now, eight cases of Ebola have been reported in America.

Many people know Ebola as the deadly epidemic spreading through Africa, but what really is it?  The CDC says the “Ebola epidemic is the largest in history” as it has affected multiple countries in West Africa.  Ebola is difficult to track because symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure, prompting Duncan’s family to argue that he did not realize he had brought Ebola into the States until after it was too late.  The virus travels through contact with bodily fluids, and its symptoms are as follows:

  • high fever (greater than 101.5 F)
  • severe headache
  • muscle pain
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

When Duncan first visited the hospital on the 25th, he was only showing two of these symptoms.

Unfortunately, Duncan was unable to defeat the virus.  On October 2, his condition was deemed serious, and all the people that had been in contact with him were under strict observation, if not quarantine.  His fiancee was relocated and his house was cleaned and bleached by a professional company to eliminate the presence of the virus.  By October 10th, Duncan’s condition was no longer serious but critical.  The FDA therefore approved an experimental drug, brincidofovir, for his use.  Unfortunately, the drug did not entirely help, and on October 8th, at 7:51 am, Duncan died of Ebola.

Ashoka Mukpo, a freelance cameramen who contracted Ebola from working in Nigeria, was another patient brought to the United States – though, legally.  Mukpo was brought back to the US on a secluded plane and taken directly to the Nebraska Medical Center.  Though he was placed on the same experimental drug as Duncan, Mukpo was able to receive a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American to contract and recover from the disease (after working in Africa for a missionary organization).  As a result of the antibodies present in Brantly’s blood, Mukpo has now shown signs of recovery.  His NBC crew that was ordered to stay in isolation, too, are (so far) devoid of symptoms.  This period of isolation was broken by Nancy Snyderman, however, who traveled to purchase take-out from her favorite restaurant.

The actions of the nurses that assisted Duncan were equally careless.  Two of seventy doctors and nurses that had been in contact with Duncan have contracted Ebola as a result of not wearing sufficient protective gear.  As a result of the disease spreading in the US, precautionary measures have been taken at a few major airports such as JFK International Airport in NYC to screen all incoming passengers from regions of Africa where Ebola is present.  Because symptoms are not always immediate, the actual chance of catching people with the disease before they leave the airport is low.

The CDC is currently working on developing a cure for Ebola, but until then, they have developed a vaccine.  Because Ebola could still be quarantined and removed from the US, the vaccine is currently not being distributed in America; instead, resources are focused on quelling Ebola in Africa.  Hopefully, like with the Swine Flu, the huge Ebola scare will eventually die down, and medications and vaccines will be developed for those in need.