Health officials in Texas said Thursday that they had reached out to as many as 100 people who may have had contact – either directly or indirectly – with a Liberian man sick with the Ebola virus while he was contagious.
But, despite the situation in Texas and Africa, public health experts say the U.S. should have no major concerns.
“No chance of widespread of outbreak or epidemic in this country.” Dr. Eric Brenner, an epidemiology professor at the University of South Carolina, told South Carolina Radio Network.
According to the World Health Organization even if someone is infected, they are not contagious until they exhibit obvious symptoms of being ill, such as fever, vomiting or diarrhea. However Dr. Brenner said the disease in not airborne. “It really requires actual contact between a susceptible person and body fluids of someone else who has the disease.” he said.
The WHO said symptoms start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches. Typically, vomiting, diarrhea and rash follow, along with decreased function of the liver and kidneys. Around this time, affected people may begin to bleed both within the body and externally.
An infected patient is not contagious until he or she starts showing symptoms of the disease, meaning that it is unlikely for an infected patient to spread the disease by nearly sitting next to another person. That second person would need to come into contact with the victim’s saliva, blood, or other bodily fluids.
The disease typically occurs in outbreaks in tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa. From 1976, when it was first identified, through 2013, the WHO reported a total of 1,716 cases. However, the current 2014 outbreak in West Africa has more than quadrupled that total, with nearly 7,200 suspected cases and nearly 3,300 deaths.
Brenner said fruit bats are believed to be a carrier and may spread the virus through their droppings without being affected themselves.