Dear Dr. Levister: What are my chances of contracting the Ebola virus? I am a native Nigerian attending college in Riverside. My family back home appears safe for now but worry about the virus spreading to America. D.S.
Dear D.S.: Ebola, the virus that is ravaging parts of West Africa triggered panic in the U.S. after officials revealed last week that two infected Americans evacuated from Liberia are being treated at the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
At least 729 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria have died, and more than 1,400 cases of Ebola have been diagnosed marking the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
However, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said last week that the outbreak poses “little risk” to the general U.S. population, and health officials “are confident we would not have a spread of Ebola even if we were to have a case here.”
Frieden also said the agency is warning Americans against any nonessential travel to the three nations affected. The advisory signals a level 3 health threat, CDC’s highest measure.
Frieden described Ebola in stark terms, calling it frightening and a “dreadful and merciless” disease for which there is no proven treatment or vaccine. The bottom line, he warned, is that “Ebola is worsening in West Africa” — and even in the best of circumstances, a true turnaround in the outbreak could take three to six months “or more.”
Frieden said he understands people’s concerns, but he called on Americans to be calm and hopes that “fear of the unfamiliar does not trump our compassion” for assisting ailing Americans and others suffering from the deadly virus Ebola.