Ebola virus creates concern for students

Samantha Ickes

A virus known as Ebola has been sweeping through Western Africa and slowly creeping across the globe, causing alarm for students and citizens in local areas.

The Ebola virus is a hemorrhagic fever with over 2,000 reported cases and a 50 percent mortality rate found in Western Africa, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, and Liberia, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hemorrhagic fever “implies that it causes a fever first, but then it also causes the destruction of blood vessels” or hemorrhages, Dr. Chris Woolverton, a professor of biostatistics, environmental health science and epidemiology, said.

A person can carry the virus for two to three weeks before showing any symptoms.

“When a person comes down with the start of symptoms, usually within 24 hours, if they’re not treated and managed, it leads to fatality,” Woolverton said.

Ebola has been known since the 1970s but there were no outbreaks as severe as the 2014 epidemic. Prior outbreaks stayed local and ended quickly, Woolverton said.

“This time when it flared up, because there were so much more travelling between countries and amongst villagers, it didn’t stay local and snuff out,” Woolverton said. “It started to spread.”

Despite the severity of the Ebola virus, students can be reassured that there is a “very low likelihood” of catching or coming in contact this virus, said the director of the University Health Services, Dr. Angela DeJulius.

“Not to minimize what’s happening in West Africa because it’s terrible, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better, but as far as what the risk is to us as Midwestern people, you’re more likely to die from the flu,” DeJulius said.

Dr. Tara Smith, an associate professor in the department of biostatistics, environmental health science and epidemiology, said it is difficult for the disease to spread in the United States.

In Africa, Ebola patients are treated in makeshift hospitals that make it easier to come in contact with bodily fluids containing the disease, Smith said.

Protective gear, such as suits and gloves, and enclosed hospitals make it easier to manage the virus in the United States.

“That’s why it’s tough to spread. In the United States, you’re not going to be dealing with all those body fluids because you’re going to be in protective gear,” Smith said.

Students in Kent can be reassured they are not at risk for the Ebola virus, which is not currently found in the United States.

“We want people to be aware, especially if they have travelled in those areas. We want people to monitor their health, but we don’t want people to be overly alarmed,” DeJulius said.

Contact Samantha Ickes at [email protected].