Are Ebola Outbreak Fears Warranted? Experts Weigh In

Are Ebola Outbreak Fears Warranted? Experts Weigh In
Are Ebola Outbreak Fears Warranted? Experts Weigh In

(HealthDay News) — The decision to bring two American aid workers infected with Ebola back to the United States has kicked up controversy, causing some to fear a local outbreak of the virus. But experts in infectious disease say there's close to no chance that this will cause an Ebola outbreak on these shores.

Ebola only spreads through direct contact with a victim's body fluids, explained Ambreen Khalil, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

The United States also differs in many crucial ways from West Africa that make an Ebola outbreak here both unlikely and more easily contained. People often live in very close contact with each other in Africa, with a dozen or more family members in the same house, experts noted. Also, West African burial practices often involve family members washing and preparing the body, which puts people in direct contact with Ebola-laden body fluid. In the United States, people live much more spread out, and professionals handle the preparation of a body for burial.

Health care and public health services in the United States also are much more savvy when it comes to controlling infectious disease, Khalil said. Doctors and nurses are quick to put sick people in protective isolation, and to protect themselves with bio-suits. "Even people who are taking care of them have a minimal risk of becoming infected," Khalil told HealthDay, referring to the two patients being treated in Atlanta. "Every day we take care of people with influenza and active tuberculosis, which both are more infectious than Ebola."

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