Ebola and the United States and Western Europe - dummies

Ebola and the United States and Western Europe

By Edward K. Chapnick

Although the 2014 Ebola outbreak continues to hit West Africa the hardest, countries outside of that region have also seen minor caseloads. Read on for more about them.

United States and Ebola

Although the media has sensationalized Ebola in the United States, only ten cases of Ebola have been treated in the United States in 2014. The first one diagnosed in September was a Liberian national who had travelled from West Africa to Dallas, Texas.

His death is the subject of controversy and lawsuits because he originally went to the hospital complaining of symptoms, but the hospital staff sent him home. He returned three days later with progression of symptoms, tested positive for Ebola, and then died ten days later.

Eight of the other nine survived. The one who died was already very ill when he arrived in the United States. Some of them contracted and/or were diagnosed with the virus in the United States, whereas others contracted the virus in West Africa and evacuated to the United States for treatment.

Ebola Cases in the United States during the 2014 Outbreak
Cases Diagnosed in the United States Cases Evacuated to the United States
Liberian national visitor to Dallas died in October after being
treated for a week.
Doctor infected in Liberia, flown to Atlanta, and recovered in
August with experimental drug after almost three weeks. Donated
blood for other Ebola patients to use through transfusion.
Nurse infected while caring for Liberian national in Dallas in
October and recovered after two weeks.
Missionary infected in Liberia, flown to Emory University in
Atlanta, treated with experimental medication, and recovered in
August after two weeks.
Nurse, also infected while caring for Liberian national in
Dallas in October, called CDC to report fever, but was cleared to
fly. She tested positive two days later, was treated, and recovered
after a week and a half.
Missionary and also a doctor infected in Liberia, flown to
Nebraska in September, treated with experimental medication and
transfusion from recovered doctor’s donation, and
recovered.
Doctor infected while in West Africa with Doctors Without
Borders, called ahead of his arrival back to the United States to
warn he may be a high-risk case. His treatment in New York included
an experimental medication and he recovered after two weeks.
Unidentified WHO doctor infected in Sierra Leone in September,
flown to Emory, and recovered in October after a week.
NBC cameraman infected in Liberia, flown to Nebraska in
October, and recovered in two weeks.
Doctor infected in Sierra Leone, flown to Nebraska in November,
and died two days later.

All of the cases of Ebola in the United States originated in the affected area of West Africa. No one in the general population in the United States has contracted Ebola (even significant others living with quarantined individuals), due to several different factors:

  • The United States has the capacity to handle the few cases that arrive here because the country isn’t in the middle of a large outbreak.

  • The United States has a well-developed healthcare system that already has facilities and trained professionals in place.

  • The general public isn’t exposed regularly to infected body fluids, which is how the virus is transmitted.

Spain

In August, Spain evacuated one of its citizens who was volunteering in Liberia and contracted the virus. He died a week later.

Again in September, the country evacuated another infected Spaniard who was a missionary doing work in Sierra Leone. He died within a few days, and one of his healthcare workers also contracted the virus. She was treated in isolation and recovered a month later.

After the healthcare worker in Spain was diagnosed with Ebola, the tracing efforts started and Spanish authorities focused on her pet dog, Excalibur. Despite international protests and local animal activists trying to physically prevent it, authorities euthanized him for fear that he was a reservoir host of the virus.

Euthanizing Excalibur is particularly sad, given that Bentley, the dog of one of the Dallas nurses who contracted Ebola, was quarantined and did well just a week later. Some evidence suggests that dogs may acquire Ebola, because they have been demonstrated to develop antibodies to the virus. However, no evidence shows that they either get sick from it or are able to transmit the virus.

At the time of publication, no other cases have been reported in Spain.

Other European countries

Norway, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany have also seen a small handful of cases. The European Union is dealing with the cases and public health in general similarly to the United States by performing extensive travel screening at the airports (which happens more frequently, given the greater number of flights that come from West Africa into Europe versus the United States), isolating anyone who is symptomatic and following up with concurrent contact tracing, and having well-stocked hospitals and trained staff to care for patients.

Several European airlines have modified or suspended flights to West Africa, including Air France, British Airways, and Brussels Airlines.