The Ebola outbreak in Africa is now causing worries in the United States after the virus killed an American.
Patrick Sawyer, 40, was on his way home from Liberia when he contracted the virus. He had flown to Lagos, Nigeria, to attend a conference before heading back home to Minnesota. That’s when he fell ill. After five days in a Nigerian hospital, he died, becoming the first American to succumb to the deadly disease.
Sawyer leaves behind his wife, Decontee, along with three daughters. His death has caused many U.S. citizens to sit up and take notice of Ebola. “People are ready to take action,” his wife said.
The World Health Organization estimates 670 Ebola deaths so far, with 456 confirmed. The virus is extremely infectious and normally kills 90 percent of those who contract it. If caught and treated early, the death rate falls to 60 percent. At this time, there is no vaccination for the virus.
American aid workers in West African countries are most susceptible to Ebola, with most outbreaks occurring in this region. Two humanitarian workers in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, also contracted the virus. Medical personnel are at the greatest risk because the virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids from infected patients.
At this point the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an outbreak within the United States is unlikely, with “no significant risk.”
Many people are concerned that air travel could pose a threat, considering that Sawyer was on an airplane. Ebola only becomes contagious once symptoms such as severe vomiting and diarrhea appear. One is unlikely to travel under such conditions, but if they appear it is important to seek medical attention right away.
Education and awareness are perhaps the best prevention for this deadly disease.
Photo: National Geographic