Ebola in the U.S.: What you need to know


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(WHNT) – One confirmed Ebola patient has been diagnosed in Dallas, the Centers for Disease Control announced Tuesday.

The virus has claimed more than 3,000 lives in west Africa after being infected, according to a World Health Organization report from last week.

Health care professionals say Ebola is a severe disease that carries a high case fatality rate, even with the best of care.  But how should this affect your day to day life? Is there currently anything to be afraid of?

WHNT News 19 is Taking Action to answer some common questions and concerns about Ebola in the U.S.

How did Ebola get to the U.S.?

A person, whose identity was not released, left Liberia on September 19 and arrived in the United States on September 20, according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.

That person did not have symptoms at the time of the flights from west Africa, but four or five days later, began to show symptoms, Frieden said. The person was hospitalized and isolated Sunday at a hospital in Dallas.

The CDC and public health officials in Texas are taking precautions to identify people who have had close personal contact with the infected person. Health care professionals have been reminded to use meticulous infection control at all times.

Are other passengers at risk?

“There is zero risk of transmission on the flight,” Frieden said. “Ebola doesn’t spread before someone gets sick, and he didn’t get sick until four days after he got off the airplane. So we don’t believe there was any risk to anyone on the flight.” Frieden declined to release any details about the man’s itinerary or flight numbers.

How is Ebola spread?

According to the CDC, people with Ebola are contagious — but only through contact with infected bodily fluids — when they display active symptoms of the virus, such as a high fever, severe headache, diarrhea and vomiting, among others. It’s not like a cold or the flu, which can be spread before symptoms show up, and it doesn’t spread through the air.

What about the American Ebola patients brought to the U.S. from Africa? Did they spread the virus?

Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were were taken to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta from Liberia in August after contracting Ebola. They were flown from Africa in a plane specially equipped with an isolation tent and accompanied by medical staff outfitted in head-to-foot protective clothing. Both were treated, including taking an experimental drug called ZMapp.

Those steps taken by the CDC and health care professionals ensured that Ebola was not introduced into the U.S. through those patients.

Both Brantly and Writebol were discharged from the hospital after surviving the virus. Doctors say both patients now test negative for Ebola and pose no health threat to the public.

Are people in Dallas in danger?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday the current Ebola patient did come into contact with five Dallas children. The children, who have not shown symptoms, are being monitored at home and Dallas schools remain open.

Health officials are working to identify anyone else the infected person has come into contact with to monitor their health.

Though people in Dallas are concerned, Gov. Perry reassured them, saying, “There are few places in the world better equipped to meet the challenge that is posed in this case. Texas is one of only 13 states certified by the CDC to conduct diagnostic Ebola testing. We have the healthcare professionals and the institutions that are second to none. The public should have every confidence that the highly trained professionals involved here will succeed in this very important mission.”

How did Ebola get so bad in Africa?

As of Sept. 28, 2014, there have been 7,178 cases and 3,338 deaths from the virus during the current outbreak in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Almost all of the cases have occurred in the nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

CBS News says a factor contributing to the outbreak in west Africa is the health care infrastructure is poor, understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with a major public health crisis. There’s also widespread mistrust of hospitals and doctors that keeps many people from seeking treatment. The high death rates at hospitals have many people so scared that they keep ailing loved ones at home, where they continue to spread the disease to others.

“There’s all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading,” Frieden said. “The United States has a strong health care system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities.”

Am I currently in any danger from Ebola?

Have you come into direct contact with the body fluids of a person who has symptoms of Ebola virus? If not, then you have not been exposed to Ebola.

Do I need to take any steps to keep myself safe?

Just like with severe weather, preparation and awareness is key.  You should be aware of the current conditions and be prepared to take steps if the need arises, but you shouldn’t live in fear.

The CDC has several tips for traveling in an area affected by an Ebola outbreak, if you must do so.

CNN contributed to this report.

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