Ebola 101 for Worried Parents: Separating Fact From Fiction

Medical-masks-are-not-the-answerMany viral illnesses are born in remote areas of the world and within animal species; they can even be shared by different animal species such as Influenza in pigs and birds. Each passage between species is often times accompanied by a major or minor change to the basic DNA structure so as to accommodate a different environment. All living creatures including microscopic ones such as viruses exist for one reason, to live and propagate the species. Sometimes the above noted changes are necessary to enhance the process of survival of the species. These remote viruses and related organisms usually remain hidden to the outside world until it involves human beings: one of the more recent such occurrences resulted in the propagation of the SARS virus from chickens to humans. The jump between species is a very difficult transfer to occur for these organisms. And from animal species to humans is even more difficult- the next step of transmissibility between humans is much more difficult to obtain…

Ebola virus is just such an organism that has probably been undergoing hundreds of genetic changes over an unknown period of time to become transmissible to humans. Again, appearing in some of the more remote areas of the world, and due to human expansion in these areas has finally figured out how to exist in the human body. It fits all the characteristics as mentioned above.

To bring this into the present, we are hearing about the human cases that have recently shown up.

The United States has a population of over 300 million people and yet we have a small handful of people (<10) who have acquired this disease; a disease surely to be taken seriously as there is no known prevention or treatment and the mortality rate is high.

It is transmissible between humans through a limited number of body fluids, routinely not touched by the average person, and under a variety of specific circumstances- not transmissible until a person is recognizably very ill.

With the advanced medical environment in this country, the experts feel confident that if more cases of Ebola in humans arise, this could be easily contained, blocking any major type of spread or epidemic.

This is not the case in undeveloped countries and the results are clearly apparent. Even though there is no specific treatment, careful attention to support and comfort of the patient in expert medical facilities can result in a cure (at least twice in this country), while overseas thousands have died and more are sickened.

It is always important to remain vigilant but the likelihood of anyone becoming ill with Ebola virus in this country is remote and panic will only make the situation worse.

There is much more to learn about this disease- new treatment modes and the development of a reliable vaccine should be in the near future.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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