Many Americans have been feeling nervous about the recent Ebola cases in the United States ever since the first case was diagnosed on September 30th with the patient’s death on October 8th, 2014.  The most recent Ebola outbreak of 2014 with cases in multiple South African countries has shown a 70% fatality rate.  Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have been hardest hit.

Thomas Eric Duncan may have contracted the virus in Liberia while taking a deathly ill neighbor in Liberia to the hospital in a taxi. He left Monrovia on a Sept. 19 flight and arrived in the U.S. the next day.  He started showing symptoms Sept. 24th and went to a Dallas hospital for treatment Sept. 26th. He was sent home, only to be brought back by ambulance on Sept. 28th and diagnosed with the deadly virus. From then, he was in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas where he died.

Two medical care workers that treated Duncan contracted the disease.  The first was Nina Pham who contracted it after an unknown “breach of protocol.  She was admitted to the hospital and isolated after the initial report of a fever and subsequently moved to the National Institutes for Health (NIH) Clinical Center.  She has since recovered and was discharged on October 24th.  The second health care worker to contract the disease after treating Duncan was Amber Vinson.  She travelled by air just days before showing symptoms, from Dallas to Cleveland on October 10th and from Cleveland to Dallas on October 13th.  Vinson was admitted at the Texas hospital as “ill but clinically stable” and transferred to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia for treatment.  She has since recovered and was released on October 28th.

In New York City, a new case of Ebola was confirmed on Oct. 24th when Dr. Craig Spencer, was admitted after showing symptoms.  He had just return from Guinea after treating patients with the disease while working with Doctors Without Borders.  He is currently the only person in the United States being treated for Ebola and will remain in isolation at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital.  In all four cases, the CDC has contacted anyone that may have been in contact with the patients in the days prior to symptoms as a precautionary measure.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.  This means direct contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth.  It can also be transmitted by contaminated needles or infected fruit bats or primates.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.  Symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and/or unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).  Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response.  People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

There is no FDA approved vaccine for Ebola so symptoms are treated as they appear.  Patients are provided with intravenous fluids (IV) and balancing electrolytes, oxygen status and blood pressure are monitored/maintained and treatment of other infections if they occur is given.  Officials began testing a Canadian-made Ebola vaccine on human volunteers in the United States.  The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research enlisted 39 healthy volunteers for the trial, and injected the first subject with the VSV-EBOV vaccine in phase 1 of testing on Oct 10th.

With all this known, it still does little to ease the minds of nervous Americans, especially those who may have been in contact with the confirmed cases.  Let’s hope there are no additional US cases and this new vaccine proves successful so we can decrease that high fatality rate globally.