Dr Aileen Marty, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Florida International University, took to Reddit at the weekend to answer any question the internet could throw at her about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Dr Marty spent a month in Nigeria, working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to try to contain the outbreak that so far has claimed over 3,000 lives.
Here are some highlights from the Q&A session…
What is the biggest misconception about Ebola? – UnholyDemigod
Marty: The biggest misconception is its fatality rate. Whether a person survives or doesn’t is greatly dependent on when they present for treatment, having appropriate treatment and where they get it.
What can the average person do to fight the spread of Ebola worldwide? – yourcoolredditbunny
Marty: Educate yourself. Be aware, be knowledgable and encourage your government to be vigilant. Donate to your favourite NGO that is working in the area, such as Médecins Sans Frontières.
Why do you think this virus has been so difficult to contain? Do you think its worth trying to help infected patients at this point? – Yogababe
Marty: The reason it is difficult to contain is because it was not recognized for many months after it had started affecting people, killing people and traveling from one country to another. By the time the outbreak was recognized and that an international response was mounted, it was already in 3 countries and had spread to urban areas.Never before in the history of Ebola outbreaks has there been an outbreak that has involved major metropolitan areas and capital cities. The culture and habits of the affected population has also facilitated the spread and continuation of this infection. For example, burial practices, superstitions, etc.
It is absolutely critical to treat infected patients, not only for their sake but in order to end the outbreak and do our best to keep Ebola zaire (the current strain) from becoming endemic in West Africa (if at all possible), a place it had never been before.
How worried should we be about Ebola in the US? – Jadis4742
Marty: The only people who should be worried are the ones that were in close contact with the Ebola patient in Texas while he was symptomatic.
It’s a public health emergency of international concern, we have to have a mechanism to rapidly recognize individuals that may have this disease, unfortunately the system right now is just voluntary.
As an epidemic, in your honest opinion, do you think Ebola will spread more rapidly in the US now that more cases of it have been confirmed? – RJeezy55
Marty: It is possible that some of the individuals that were in close contact with the Dallas case may prove positive for Ebola, but because those individuals are being closely monitored, any disease they show won’t result in further spread.
I am totally confident that our public healthcare workers will prevent that Dallas case from spreading to outbreak proportions in the US despite the fact that other persons he’d be in contact with are positive. That’s not an outbreak.
What are the chances of people surviving it in a Western country, where they have access to tiptop medical care? – UnholyDemigod
Marty: How well a patient does is largely dependent on how soon after they become symptomatic do they receive appropriate treatment, regardless of where they are.
As long as US health care workers are acutely aware that another patient may present, as the Dallas case did, and do not allow that patient to go home while they are symptomatic, and begin treatment immediately, then the chances for survival for that individual are very good and the chances that that individual can spread the disease are reduced dramatically.
What do you think needs to be done to stop this outbreak? – akingwithnocrown
Marty: The only way to stop this outbreak is to have enough people with training and experience, and enough facilities and resources (Personal Protective Equipment, oral rehydration fluid, etc.).
And an awareness campaign that the effected population can understand and agrees with to encourage them to get prompt treatment. And we need extensive contact tracing.
What would you say is the greatest obstacle to containing and fighting the outbreak? – tyrandan2
Marty: The greatest obstacle right now is the size, distribution of this outbreak and the fact that multiple different governmental systems are involved in attempting to contain it, as well as the enormous need for skilled professionals, resources and facilities in order to treat these patients.
Another big obstacle is that of fear and misunderstanding amongst people affected and even amongst those of us who are not affected.
Worst case scenario: world outbreak of Ebola goes critical. Let’s say you have ten minutes in a Costco or whatever store. Please list the items a person should buy to reduce the risk of ebola infection to the lowest possible risk level. – KarmaTracker
Marty: At minimum: Soap, Chlorine, Bottled Water, Gloves, Buckets, Water hose, Mask & Goggles (For close encounters), Condoms, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Sedative, Oral Rehydration Fluid.
If I come down with Ebola, will I be excused from my midterms next week? – Yogababe
Marty: The patients with Ebola who were college students in Nigeria were given laptops to take their exams from the isolation ward. So not to worry – you will be able to take your midterms.