Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Global Impact: Update--West Africa's Ebola Virus Potentially Could Spread Worldwide

According to The NationalJournal, last week, for the first time in recorded history, the Ebola virus traveled from one country to another by jetliner. The man who carried it died five days after touching down in Nigeria, before he could make the last leg of his trip, to Minneapolis, MN.

The death of Patrick Sawyer, a naturalized US citizen who worked for the Finance Ministry of Liberia, where he was born, has sparked fears in the US that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa could spread to the United States. 

"People weren't really taking it [Ebola] seriously until it hit Patrick," his wife, Decontee Sawyer, told CNN on Wednesday (July 30). Her husband was traveling from Liberia to the States to celebrate his young daughters' birthdays in August. 

In the US, which has never had its own case of Ebola, one member of Congress, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), wants to restrict travel from affected West African nations. 

Grayson has already written a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday (July 29) requesting a travel ban on the citizens of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, "and any foreign person who has visited one of these nations 90 days prior to arriving in the United States." 

Grayson said Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, where Patrick Sawyer collapsed from his symptoms, in particular poses a danger because Nigeria offers direct flights to the US.

A spokeswoman for Grayson said Wednesday (July 30) that his office has not yet received a response from either cabinet secretary. 

COMMENT: The Ebola virus, which has no approved treatment or vaccine, has infected more than 1,100 people and killed more than 670 in Africa since February 2014, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

In Africa, affected nations are using travel restrictions as their first line of defense. Asky, a major West African airline, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone to keep "its passengers and staff safe during this unsettling time," the BBC reported.

All travelers arriving from Guinea on Asky flights are screened for signs of infection. Arik Air, Nigeria's largest airline, has also banned flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberia closed most of its border crossings and banned public gatherings on Monday (July 28). Police officers are screening passengers for symptoms in the capital's Roberts International Airport.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is little risk that the virus could reach the US by air travel. 

CDC has advised US health care providers to watch patients who have traveled to West Africa recently for symptoms of the virus. It also issued a "level 2" travel alert, warning US visitors to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone to avoid contact with infected individuals, yet just exactly how is that enforced?

 The next step in precaution, a "level 3" warning, would prompt the US State Department to advise against nonessential travel to these nations.

The Ebola virus is one of the most dangerous agents known to humans. 

It attacks the immune system, causing fever, flu-like aches, vomiting, diarrhea and, in severe cases, internal and external bleeding. 

Caught early, the mortality rate is 60%; discovered too late, it's near-hopeless @ 90%.