By Adam Davis
Ebola is now a domestic threat. On Sept. 30, Thomas E. Duncan became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.
Doctors diagnosed this infection at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, approximately 13 miles from the University of Dallas. According to officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the diagnosis was made 10 days after Duncan’s flight from Liberia landed in Dallas, Texas. Duncan is currently in critical condition at the hospital, where his struggle for life against the Ebola virus characterizes the fight thousands in his native Liberia have been unable to survive.
As the nation’s attention has focused on the patient’s health, real fear of outbreak is disproportionate to the actual threat, according to Dr. Laurette Dekat, director of student health at the University of Dallas health clinic.
“What we have right now is an epidemic of fear, rather than a true epidemic,” Dekat stated.
Texas Governor Rick Perry released a video on his official website that stated Dallas County and Texas Department of Health Services investigators are “working to identify, locate, and monitor the health of all those that have come into close contact with this patient.”
Ultimately, CDC officials successfully tracked 100 individuals at risk of contracting Ebola and 10 at high risk of getting sick with Ebola. The number of at risk patients was later reduced to 50.
According to Dekat, widespread risk of contraction in the United States is overstated.
First, Ebola is a gastrointestinal infection, not an airborne infection. As a result, containment of Ebola is possible if high-risk individuals such as family members and ambulance teams undertake proper precautions, Dekat noted. She explained that there is a “less than 1 percent” chance that a student at the University of Dallas will develop Ebola.
“For someone here to contract Ebola, they would have to come into direct body contact with someone ill with Ebola,” Dekat explained.
Tom Frieden director of the U.S. CDC noted in a public statement that an outbreak of Ebola is unlikely.
“It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks,” Frieden said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola is a deadly virus with an average survival rate between 10 percent and 50 percent.
American news coverage has drawn attention to the Ebola crisis in Liberia and national health concern over continued incoming flights from Liberia into the United States as well as risks posed to U.S. troops deployed to the African country.
Local and national leaders mobilized resources this month as an international coalition for prevention and relief takes shape.
The White House announced on Sept. 16 that it sent 3000 troops to Liberia in an effort to establish legal structure to “facilitate coordination with U.S. government and international relief efforts.”
The struggle with deadly disease has become a constant theme in African nations.
According to the WHO, thousands have died from Ebola since the 1970s.
Dr. Robert Ansiaux, adjunct professor in the UD history department, attributed the continent’s struggle to contain disease to an unsure and weak healthcare system.
“Colonial legacy and economic decisions made during the Cold War turned out to be detrimental to planned economies [of Central Africa] and left insufficient healthcare and education structures,” Ansiaux stated.
President Barack Obama assured the country that international prevention efforts can and will be upgraded, according to International Business Times:
“The United States will continue to help countries create their own emergency operations centers with rapid response teams,” Obama told attendees of the Global Health Security Agenda summit.