When two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus arrive in Atlanta, Georgia for treatment it will be the first time the disease has reached the U.S.
“I think it is the closest it has ever been. Up until now we’ve never had any cases even enter the U.S. so this is the first time that has happened and if everything goes as according to plan then this should be OK,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, with UW Health’s Infectious Disease Control.
Safdar believes that bringing the two American aid workers back to the U.S. for medical treatment is necessary for their chances of recovery. Both patients are said to be in grave but stable condition.
“One of the obvious answers is that the U.S. has state of-the-art facilities to be able to treat and I think that now that we know more about how to contain it and this country has resources that many countries in Africa don’t. Containment, as long as it is well planned in advance, should be possible to do and should be feasible,” said Safdar.
In preparation for any appearance of the Ebola virus in the U.S. plans are in place for the treatment of patients. Four hospitals have been designated to deal with any outbreak in the U.S.
UW Hospital is not one of the four designated facilities, but is capable of mobilizing and treating any patient they would receive with the virus. They have a dedicated isolation unit that would be used to contain the virus.
Safdar said while Ebola virus is deadly it is not as contagious as other infectious diseases.
“I think if there is a little bit of a silver lining it is that Ebola is not as contagious as some of the other infectious diseases we’ve encountered,” said Safdar.
Safdar said the lack of resources makes West Africa susceptible to the spread of the disease.
“Because it is transmitted by blood and body fluid, if there are syringes that are used on one person, and then not adequately sterilized and then used on someone else that person would get the illness. That sort of thing is exceedingly rare in this country.”
Resources are now being focused on the region of West Africa in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. The World Health Organization is pledging $100 million on increasing health care in the region to get control of the Ebola outbreak.
“Now that it has reached the visibility that it needed to there are a lot of people clearly working on trying to contain the outbreak. It will take time but I think it is possible to contain it,” said Safdar.