U.S. doctors on alert after 2 Americans contract Ebola

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BOONE, N.C. - Eyewitness News has covered every development since a Charlotte missionary and a Samaritan's Purse doctor became infected with the Ebola virus.
 
The deadly virus has no cure, but a local infectious disease expert said the virus does not spread as easily as some others.

Click here for Sunday's coverage.

Doctors in the U.S. are on alert, but Dr. Christopher Polk an infectious-disease specialist with Carolinas HealthCare System, said even if the deadly Ebola virus reached the U.S., it likely would not spread as much as it has in places like Liberia.
 
Polk said concern about a rapid spread of the Ebola virus in the country is mostly unsubstantiated.
 
"Individuals really need to be in direct contact with individuals who are symptomatic," Polk said, adding Ebola spreads when a person comes into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
 
That person must also already show symptoms of Ebola, like an initial fever or sore throat, Polk said.


Charlottean Nancy Writebol, a missionary helping to eradicate the deadly virus in Liberia, is one of two Americans to contract Ebola.
 
"A lot of the difficulties in containing this outbreak in West Africa center on infection control measures," Polk said.
 
In West Africa, several patients often share a room and despite efforts to mitigate the spread, Polk said the hygiene precautions and sanitation measures taken in the western world are less prevalent in places like western Africa.
 
Missionaries like Writebol know there is no cure for the virus, which by some estimates has a 90 percent fatality rate.
 
You're treated with supportive measures, meaning fluids, replacing electrolytes and trying to support your body through the illness," said Polk, who added the sooner a person gets help, the better.
 
Measures are now being taken in western Africa to stop the further spread of the virus.
 
Polk said there is about a week incubation period between exposure to Ebola and the time when symptoms start developing.

Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees), according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Infection often spreads between humans because of direct contact with blood or other secretions of an infected person or exposure to objects that have been contaminated.

During outbreaks, Ebola can spread quickly within heath care settings, according to the CDC.

Read more on symptoms and treatments for Ebola.


The Billy Graham Association released a statement Sunday night, click here to read it.