The largest outbreak to date of the deadly virus Ebola is currently causing devastation across West Africa. More than 4,800 deaths have been recorded in the three countries most affected countries- Leonne, Liberia and Guinea. People who have contracted the virus initially develop fever like symptoms and after 2-21 days of becoming infected will usually suffer from diarrhoea, vomiting and kidney and liver failure. This disease progresses to cause internal bleeding and may cause victims to bleed from their ears, eyes, nose or mouth. In 50-90% of cases the disease is fatal.
It is undeniably an awful illness that has affected thousands of people and has left many children orphaned. David Cameron has said that it ‘is the biggest health problem facing our world in a generation.’ But the media’s relentless reporting of the disease, which has seen us bombarded with innumerable articles and sometimes gruesome photos, has suggested that the disease could affect us here in the UK when in reality the chances of that are extremely small.
Contrary to the myth that says Ebola is airborne, it can’t be transmitted in the same way that viruses like the flu can. Dr Michael Gardam, director of infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto, says that Ebola ‘is very hard to catch’ and that in the four decades since the virus has been discovered it has never been known to spread through the air. Instead, it is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids including urine, saliva, blood, faeces and vomit. This is the reason why many of the people who have contracted Ebola are health professionals who have been treating people with the virus.
If cases do develop in the UK, the NHS, together with the help of other services, is certain that they will be able to manage it. According to the NHS, the country is prepared in a number of ways; trained staff and specialised facilities are available to treat anyone who contracts the virus, flight crews have been taught how to effectively deal with any passengers who develop symptoms on planes travelling from Africa, and Border Force has been told how to correctly identify any possible cases of the virus.
It has been suggested that a bigger risk to the UK is the hysteria surrounding Ebola and not the actual virus itself; for example the media has led people to ignore the real facts and have scare mongered them into believing it can easily spread to the UK. It’s important to highlight that, although very unlikely, health professionals are certain that an outbreak here would be controlled effectively. In the UK at least, a flu epidemic could have more devastating effects.
Edited by Nicole Jones