The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has raised concerns about a possible spread of the virus in the U.S.
However according to experts, the likelihood of an outbreak here is very low.
Lisa Villarroel, Medical Director for the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control for the Arizona Department of Health Services, doubts that an outbreak is probable; but admits that a case of Ebola in the U.S. is possible.
“I think it is highly unlikely that we would ever have an outbreak of Ebola here in the United States,” said Villarroel. “Could we have a case here? I think that will happen one day in the future.”
According to Villarroel, the reason why people living in the U.S. are less likely to suffer an outbreak of Ebola to the degree of the current outbreak in Africa is because Americans are more likely to seek treatment and have faith in the medical community.
“The structure of our healthcare system here is much different than it is in Africa. We have very strong systems in place, very strong infection control programs in place,” Villarroel said.
“A big problem in Africa is a mistrust in the people who are trying to help with Ebola and we do not have a mistrust of the healthcare system to that degree in the United States,” Villarroel said.
To understand the outbreak, Villarroel explains how people contract the Ebola virus what the symptoms are.
“Ebola is a virus that is spread person-to-person through infected body fluids, such as saliva, urine, blood and feces,” Villarroel said. “It has the capability of causing an illness that is usually characterized by fever, but it can
also cause headaches and muscle aches.”
“So far, there is not a definitive cure for the Ebola virus,” Villarroel said, but treatment is available to infected patients in Africa.
“Right now the standard of care if someone is diagnosed with Ebola is essentially supportive. That means maintaining their fluid balance, keeping their electrolytes in check, keeping them hydrated, and keeping them isolated,” Villarroel said.
Although the threat of an Ebola outbreak is unlikely, Villarroel said that people in the U.S., like college age students, are still at risk for spreading infectious disease.
“Whenever you have people living in close borders, such as in a dorm, there is always a risk for infectious diseases to flow back and forth,” Villarroel said. “So just take normal precautions whenever your poor roommate is sick, with washing your hands and not sharing things like utensils and drinking glasses.”
Villarroel said the most prevalent illnesses on college campuses are influenza, whooping cough, and meningitis.
“We are lucky in that some of the illnesses that are very common on college campuses, we do have a vaccine for, and so we can essentially eliminate those as a significant threat for people who get those vaccinations.”