November 7, 2014 – An infectious disease expert recently told an audience during Fort Valley State University’s Presidential Excellence Lecture that Ebola had little chance of spreading to Middle Georgia.
Dr. Earl Long, a former health scientist for the Centers for Disease Control, spoke about his personal experience working in an Ebola endemic area on Oct. 21 in the Pettigrew Center.
“It is really difficult for me to understand why people don’t want to vaccinate their kids, yet they are afraid of Ebola,” Long said.
Long spoke about his personal experience working in an Ebola endemic area in Western Africa. The Ebola expert described the virus as a filovirus, whose structure was a coil of DNA. According to Long, the virus was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a village called Yambuku near the Ebola River. There have been 40 outbreaks of the virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan, Gabon, Uganda and Guinea.
The parasitologist reviewed the symptoms of the disease which include fever, joint and muscle pain, weakness, sore throat, chills, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, difficulty in breathing, and liver and kidney failure. The disease is transmitted through bodily secretions (urine, sweat, vomit, breast milk, semen) and in syringes and infected animals. It is not spread through the air, water or food.
Treatment for the disease includes replacing fluids with IV, maintaining oxygen levels, and using new experimental drugs like Zmapp, Lamividine, and an antiviral drug called TKM.
The specialist said the disease is not easily transmitted. It is less contagious than measles and less deadly than the flu in terms of the number of people killed each year.
Throughout his presentation, Long showed photos of his travels on the continent of Africa as a consultant for the Centers for Disease Control while evaluating test facilities.
“Typical laboratory conditions were not impressive and not safe at all,” Long said.
The CDC expert shared pictures from dilapidated laboratory and hospital facilities within Western Africa where care (and testing) of patients occur, which he believes have contributed to the spread of the disease. Long also helped to train doctors and nurses to treat patients, and avoid being infected with the disease. A student he trained was infected with Ebola, and eventually succumbed to the disease.
Long shared ways to prevent Ebola, which he believed was relatively fragile. Tips include basic hygiene such as washing with soap and water after leaving the restroom and not handling blood products.
To view video of Long’s ebola lecture, click here.