What We've Learned About the Virus

 

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â—† The average Ebola survival rate is about 50 percent. There is no cure for the disease. And more than 4,000 people in West Africa have died from it in this outbreak.

â—† The chances for a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States are extremely small, even now that a fourth case has been confirmed. The circumstances that have led to the rapid spread of the virus in West Africa do not exist in the U.S. In Liberia, Sierra Leon,e and Guinea, poor public-health infrastructure, combined with a poor public awareness about how the disease is contracted, have exacerbated the problem. In the U.S., the federal government is tracking and monitoring anyone who may have been in contact with an Ebola patient.

â—† Plus, American doctors have extensive training in dealing with quarantined and highly infectious patients. Protocols to deal with infectious diseases are standardized across U.S. hospitals.

â—† While there is no cure for Ebola, there's mixed evidence that the disease can be treated with the blood of Ebola survivors, which contains the antibodies necessary to defeat the disease. But the science is still unclear about whether transfusions would work. "Who does it work on, how does it work exactly, when doesn't it work, what's the right amount to give, all those things—that information really isn't clear," a World Health Organization spokesperson told National Journal's Kaveh Waddell.

â—† The incubation time (i.e., how long a virus can stay dormant in a body before infection sets in) for Ebola is two to 21 days, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the risk of contracting Ebola after 21 days post-exposure does not drop to zero. According to a recent study in the Journal PLOS Current Outbreaks, even after 30 days, the risk of contracting the disease is eight in 1,000.

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(The WHO's graph of the Ebola incubation times for the first nine months of the outbreak.)

â—† Two Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurses who treated the late Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with the disease in the U.S., got sick themselves. Here's what went wrong: The nurses were not not wearing the proper protective gear to shield them from Duncan's bodily fluids. And health authorities didn't stop one of the nurses from flying on a plane with a low-grade fever, risking exposure to her fellow passengers.

â—† In response, the CDC has issued new guidelines for protective gear, and they're intense: the protocols include 12 steps for donning protective gear and 21 steps for taking it off.

Since the worst outbreak of Ebola in history spilled into the United States, the news saturated both American airwaves and the American consciousness. In a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 98 percent of Americans said they were aware of the unfolding story. There's a lot to keep track of: how the virus is transmitted, how it may be stopped, and which politicians are offering constructive solutions and which are not. Here's what we've learned about this rapidly updating story alongside the rest of the world in the last few months.

What We've Learned About the Virus

 

{{thirdPartyEmbed type:animatedgif source:http://cdn-media.nationaljournal.com/?controllerName=image&action=get&id=42308&format=nj2013_8_columns_tiny}}

â—† The average Ebola survival rate is about 50 percent. There is no cure for the disease. And more than 4,000 people in West Africa have died from it in this outbreak.

â—† The chances for a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States are extremely small, even now that a fourth case has been confirmed. The circumstances that have led to the rapid spread of the virus in West Africa do not exist in the U.S. In Liberia, Sierra Leon,e and Guinea, poor public-health infrastructure, combined with a poor public awareness about how the disease is contracted, have exacerbated the problem. In the U.S., the federal government is tracking and monitoring anyone who may have been in contact with an Ebola patient.

â—† Plus, American doctors have extensive training in dealing with quarantined and highly infectious patients. Protocols to deal with infectious diseases are standardized across U.S. hospitals.

â—† While there is no cure for Ebola, there's mixed evidence that the disease can be treated with the blood of Ebola survivors, which contains the antibodies necessary to defeat the disease. But the science is still unclear about whether transfusions would work. "Who does it work on, how does it work exactly, when doesn't it work, what's the right amount to give, all those things—that information really isn't clear," a World Health Organization spokesperson told National Journal's Kaveh Waddell.

â—† The incubation time (i.e., how long a virus can stay dormant in a body before infection sets in) for Ebola is two to 21 days, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the risk of contracting Ebola after 21 days post-exposure does not drop to zero. According to a recent study in the Journal PLOS Current Outbreaks, even after 30 days, the risk of contracting the disease is eight in 1,000.

{{thirdPartyEmbed type:animatedgif source:http://wcm-mm-rest.nstein.prod/?controllerName=image&action=get&id=42309}}

(The WHO's graph of the Ebola incubation times for the first nine months of the outbreak.)

â—† Two Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurses who treated the late Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with the disease in the U.S., got sick themselves. Here's what went wrong: The nurses were not not wearing the proper protective gear to shield them from Duncan's bodily fluids. And health authorities didn't stop one of the nurses from flying on a plane with a low-grade fever, risking exposure to her fellow passengers.

â—† In response, the CDC has issued new guidelines for protective gear, and they're intense: the protocols include 12 steps for donning protective gear and 21 steps for taking it off.

What We've Learned About the Politics

â—† In response to the outbreak, some conservative lawmakers are calling for travel bans from affected countries in West Africa. Others are going further, calling for the complete closure of the U.S.-Mexico border.

â—† Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has proposed a bill to restrict travel visas for Ebola-inflicted countries, which would be marginally more effective at targeting potential Ebola carriers than an outright travel ban.

â—† From a psychological perspective, this makes sense: Ebola can make conservatives more conservative. Instances of Ebola panic can also be explained by science. When the threat of a disease becomes more salient, overall fear about health-related issues increases. 

â—† But most experts agree: A travel ban wouldn't work, and even could get in the way of humanitarian efforts to help West African countries. Experts also say increased Ebola airport-screenings won't work either. Passengers who may be carrying the disease but asymptomatic would still go undetected. "It's like looking for a needle in 10,000 haystacks," Joshua Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told National Journal's Sophie Novack.

â—† Still, the Homeland Security Department has imposed increased travel restrictions from West Africa. limiting flights to five major U.S. airports and screening passengers for fever, a symptom of Ebola, upon arrival.

â—† The Obama administration has also appointed Ron Klain to serve as the nation's "Ebola Czar," tasked with overseeing the government's response to the disease. While he won't prevent another Ebola case from occurring in the U.S., Klain can help coordinate a response to stop Ebola where it is the most devastating: in Africa.

â—† There's a long history of presidents appointing such "czars" to both coordinate a response to a sprawling problem and serve as some good PR.

â—† But while the Ebola news story has saturated the American consciousness, most people aren't all that concerned. Seventy-five percent of Americans trust that the CDC can deal with the crisis.

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Photo Credits: Getty

What We've Learned About the Politics

â—† In response to the outbreak, some conservative lawmakers are calling for travel bans from affected countries in West Africa. Others are going further, calling for the complete closure of the U.S.-Mexico border.

â—† Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has proposed a bill to restrict travel visas for Ebola-inflicted countries, which would be marginally more effective at targeting potential Ebola carriers than an outright travel ban.

â—† From a psychological perspective, this makes sense: Ebola can make conservatives more conservative. Instances of Ebola panic can also be explained by science. When the threat of a disease becomes more salient, overall fear about health-related issues increases. 

â—† But most experts agree: A travel ban wouldn't work, and even could get in the way of humanitarian efforts to help West African countries. Experts also say increased Ebola airport-screenings won't work either. Passengers who may be carrying the disease but asymptomatic would still go undetected. "It's like looking for a needle in 10,000 haystacks," Joshua Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told National Journal's Sophie Novack.

â—† Still, the Homeland Security Department has imposed increased travel restrictions from West Africa. limiting flights to five major U.S. airports and screening passengers for fever, a symptom of Ebola, upon arrival.

â—† The Obama administration has also appointed Ron Klain to serve as the nation's "Ebola Czar," tasked with overseeing the government's response to the disease. While he won't prevent another Ebola case from occurring in the U.S., Klain can help coordinate a response to stop Ebola where it is the most devastating: in Africa.

â—† There's a long history of presidents appointing such "czars" to both coordinate a response to a sprawling problem and serve as some good PR.

â—† But while the Ebola news story has saturated the American consciousness, most people aren't all that concerned. Seventy-five percent of Americans trust that the CDC can deal with the crisis.

{{thirdPartyEmbed type:animatedgif source:http://cdn-media.nationaljournal.com/?controllerName=image&action=get&id=42492&format=nj2013_portrait_tablet_gallery}}

Photo Credits: Getty

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