by Dennis Dalman
African countries where the Ebola disease is a major concern are only three countries of that huge continent’s 54 nations.
The African continent is so vast, in fact, the contiguous United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) could fit nearly four times in Africa.
Although nearly 6,000 people have died in three West African countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea), nearly 15,000 people had the disease but recovered. The number of Ebola victims is extremely miniscule when compared to the total population in Africa, and there is no evidence the disease has spread dramatically to other African countries or other countries in the world.
Although concerns about Ebola are now worldwide, some people have over-reacted to the threat from the disease, sometimes in panic mode. The actual facts about Ebola should waylay most of those fears, according to information presented at the We Are Thankful food-packaging event Nov. 22 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud (see related story).
These are the facts as presented by the Public Health Department of Stearns County Human Services.
- Ebola is not spread through air, water or casual contact.
- To become infected with Ebola, a person must come in direct contact with blood or body fluids from someone sick with Ebola. Such a contact must be through broken skin, eyes, nose or mouth. It could also be contracted through contact with needles that have been contaminated with blood or body fluids of a sick patient.
- The most opportune time for Ebola infection spreading is when the person who is sick is in the later stages of the disease when the people are suffering so much they are unable to get out of bed, rendering them virtually helpless. The chance of getting Ebola from someone in the first, earliest stage of the disease is very low.
- While Stearns County and central Minnesota does have quite a large population of people from Africa, most of those are immigrants from Somalia in East Africa, which is 5,000 miles from the three countries in West Africa where Ebola is worrisome.
- People are much more likely to die of the flu or in a car accident than to come in contact with someone with Ebola.
- The time from exposure to when symptoms first appear is two to 21 days, but the average time is eight to 10 days. Signs of Ebola can include fever, severe headaches, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain or unexplained bleeding or bruising. Those symptoms can be signs of other illnesses, too, not just Ebola.
- Many Africans are experiencing stigma throughout the world just because Ebola is noted in three African countries. In some cases, African people have been shunned or avoided. The best way to help stop such stigmatizing behavior is to learn as many facts as possible about the disease and then to share them with others.