Are We All Dead From Ebola Yet?

The first confirmed case of a traveler coming to the United States with an Ebola infection has been confirmed in Dallas. Cue the national freakout about the coming epidemic and all the blame for Obama and all that nonsense. But not so fast. My old friend Tara Smith, a leading infectious disease specialist, tells everyone to relax.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on Tuesday evening that a patient undergoing treatment in the United States does, indeed, have the Ebola virus. Nearly two weeks ago, the traveler left Liberia, one of the West African countries at the center of the current Ebola outbreak, and flew back to Texas – asymptomatic at that point. This is key, because Ebola spreads when a person is exhibiting symptoms. At the time of that flight, the patient was not ill. And when the patient later reported to a hospital in Dallas, doctors there quickly suspected it was Ebola and put the patient into isolation. Those who came into contact since the patient’s arrival are being traced as a precaution and will be watched for symptoms for three weeks – the incubation period of the virus. Odds are good those contacts do not include you, and your odds of dying of Ebola in the US are lower than your chances of dying on a rollercoaster.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we’ll see other cases here in the US, but, seriously: relax. We got this…

Of course, we’ve also brought medical workers home to the US for Ebola treatment, at Emory near CDC headquarters in Atlanta, and in Nebraska, where a physician was released on Thursday and is doing just fine, thanks. Despite the initial public outcry, no medical staff or other hospital workers have become ill after caring for these patients, and no one else in their communities has been put at risk. The Ebola virus is easily controlled with the prevention measures and healthcare infrastructure we have in developed countries like the US.

Be concerned for those in the affected areas of West Africa and Central Africa, but, really: do not lose sleep about the potential for Ebola to spread across the US. It’s not going to.

Ebola has become an epidemic in West Africa because they lack the medical infrastructure that we have in the United States. If you’re traveling to Dallas or through the airport there, you have far more to fear from getting into an accident in the taxi on the way there than you do from Ebola.

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  • anubisprime

    Texas you say?…Damn…no no Anubis behave yourself better not go there…or Texas either!

  • Trebuchet

    And when the patient later reported to a hospital in Dallas, doctors there quickly suspected it was Ebola and put the patient into isolation.

    Not exactly. He came into the ER exhibiting symptoms, the ball was dropped, and he was sent home:

    On September 24, four days after he arrived in Dallas from Liberia, Duncan started feeling symptoms. That day is significant because that’s when he started being contagious.

    Late the following night, he went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas with a low-grade fever and abdominal pain, the hospital said.

    Duncan told a nurse he had been in Africa.

    But “regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full team,” said Dr. Mark Lester, executive vice president of Texas Health Resources.

    Duncan was sent home with painkillers and antibiotics, only to return in worse condition on September 28. That’s when he was isolated.


  • Alverant

    @Trebuchet, was this a for-profit hospital?

  • blf

    A puzzling aspect of the story is the gentleman when the hospital complaining of dizziness(?), but not showing any symptoms, and told them he had recently returned from Liberia. He was apparently diagnosed with a “virus” (such as the common cold), and (1) Given an antibiotic (huh? for a virus?); and (2) The information he had been in Liberia was not followed-up.

    When he was returned to that same hospital two days later by ambulance, he was showing symptoms — vomiting — and hence the ambulance staff (as well as his immediate family) have now been quarantined. This time around, people took him seriously…

  • raven

    Yeah, that hospital dropped the ball.

    He came in with symptoms. Told them he had come from Liberia, hardest hit Ebola country.

    They sent him home with some antibiotics, not active against viruses.

  • blf

    was this a for-profit hospital?

    My guess is “probably Yes” because Ye Pfffft of All Knowledge says it is “private” and not affiliated with any University. Ambiguously, it’s own website (and name) indicate a connection to a local church.

    It’s apparently very large (> 800 beds) and is a tertiary-care facility, so it is essentially the right sort of place for the gentleman to have gone to, and, I’d like to think, should be sufficiently clew-up to take a “virus” in a person recently returned from Liberia much more seriously that was apparently the case.

  • suttkus

    Antibiotics are often prescribed for viral conditions to keep the patient from developing an opportunistic bacterial infection that makes the situation worse. Whether this is an example of reasonable practicality or overuse of antibiotics is a matter of some debate, but it isn’t an example of the hospital screwing up.

  • busterggi

    This could be as bad as when West Nile wiped out 3/4 of the US population.

    And yes, I’ve had it & it was horrible but I’m still typing badly as ever.

  • blf

    suttkus@7, Ah, yes, that makes sense. Thanks!

    (Albeit I would be inclined to argue that if it was an overuse of antibiotics then it is a screw-up.)

  • raven

    This being Texas, a state that opposed and passed on the Affordable Health Care Act, I’m sure they asked him the key question.

    “Do you have health insurance?” It’s likely he didn’t. Oops.

  • Modusoperandi


  • Georgia Sam

    And some wingnut “prophet” predicts that Ebola will wipe out most of the U.S. as punishment for same-sex marriage or abortion or something in 3…2…1…

  • johnwoodford
  • JamesY2

    Georgia Sam:

    I haven’t heard anything about punishment, but one of the mailing lists my scambaiting catcher account is on keeps insisting that this sort of thing means hospitals aren’t safe.

  • jws1

    johnwoodford: Never heard of Rude Pundit before. You sure it’s not Modus?

  • johnwoodford

    Come to think of it, I’ve never seen them both at the same time….

  • Artor

    I’d be more comfortable if we actually had the medical system of a civilized country, instead of the unresponsive, for-profit mess we’re stuck with. I can’t say the performance we’ve seen in Texas is very confidence-inspiring.

  • Georgia Sam


    That could be a good thing. If it frightens enough people away from hospitals, maybe I’ll be treated more quickly if I should have to go to an emergency room.

  • magistramarla

    From the articles that I’ve been reading today, not only has the family been quarantined, but no authorities bothered to go to the apartment to clean up the man’s dirty linens and there was no food brought to those people.

    They had been told not to talk to the press, but finally did anyway, and then a cleaning crew and the Red Cross appeared.

    The ironic thing was seeing Ricky Perry at a news conference yesterday, claiming that Texas was better prepaid to deal with this than any other state.