The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has been one of the
biggest news stories of the year. The epidemic has led to thousands of deaths, with a case fatality rate of 71 percent. All of this talk may leave you wondering — what is Ebola? Will this epidemic spread to America, and how much danger are you in?
Discover more about how Ebola affects you and our national security:
What Is Ebola?
Ebola virus is a virus that can lead to decreased function of the liver and kidneys and, eventually, death. The symptoms of the virus typically start between two days and three weeks after contracting the virus, and death will occur between six to 16 days after the early symptoms appear. Symptoms include intense fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Death is often due to low blood pressure from fluid loss.
How Is Ebola Contracted?
The virus is only acquired via contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected human. Airborne transmission has not been documented in any case. An infected person in the early stage of symptoms has a very limited ability to spread the disease; the disease is only spread by people with Ebola who have symptoms. The primary reason why the disease has spread in Africa is the traditional burial rituals that involve large amounts of contact with the body.
The African Outbreak
The first case of this Ebola outbreak was in a small village in Guinea in December of 2013. By March of 2014, the World Health Organization had confirmed that 112 cases of Ebola had been reported and 70 people had died. By the summer, the outbreak had spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The virus has also spread to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Containing the outbreak has been difficult as Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are among the most impoverished countries in the world, so the epicenter of this epidemic has a limited health care system with few doctors or hospitals. The WHO predicts that there could be as many as 10,000 new Ebola cases per week worldwide by December of 2014.
Spread to America
On Sept. 30, 2014 the Centers for Disease Control announced that 42-year-old Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, had been diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, Texas, where he was visiting family. He died nine days after being hospitalized. Duncan infected two nurses who cared for him, but both have since recovered from the virus.
The CDC has put forth several initiatives and efforts to contain the Ebola virus and prevent Americans from being infected. The U.S. has now required that passengers who have originated in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to enter through five airports: New York’s John F. Kennedy, New Jersey’s Newark, Washington’s Dulles, Atlanta’s Hartsfield and Chicago’s O’Hare. The government has yet to suspend visas from West Africa, but that option remains on the table.
On Oct. 17, 2014 President Obama appointed Ron Klain to coordinate the United States’ Ebola response. Although Klain has no medical experience, he is a former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore. He was also involved with the distribution of funds in the federal stimulus act. Some have questioned his lack of medical credentials, but he has significant experience working in Washington and coordinating federal response.
Will Ebola Affect You?
It is still unlikely that America will see an outbreak on the level of what’s happening in the countries of West Africa. Because Ebola is only transmitted via human bodily fluids directly, it does not spread rapidly or easily. It is also important to remember that transmission is only possible by an infected person showing symptoms. At this stage, the government has gone to great lengths to stop any contact with the virus.
Because of the medical infrastructure the U.S. has, it is very unlikely that an Ebola outbreak will take hold in America. Norms around hygiene as well as treatment protocols devised by the CDC should all ensure that health care workers and the general public are not exposed to the bodily fluids of an infected individual.
Security Policy Studies at Notre Dame College Online
Severe disease outbreaks can pose a threat to national security. The use of troops in West Africa and debates about closing our borders are just two examples from the recent Ebola epidemic of how disease around the globe affects us here at home. At Notre Dame, our online security policy studies program gives students the tools they need to participate in this important national conversation.
We offer both graduate and undergraduate level programs for students seeking a career in fields like intelligence, public policy and security infrastructure.
Our certificate program allows students the option to specialize in a specific field of interest including:
- Biodefense, science and technology security analysis
- Transnational threat analysis
- Strategic intelligence and risk assessment analysis
- Terrorism and critical infrastructure analysis
Learn how you can be a part the solution by visiting our security policies studies program page today.