What’s Really Going on With Ebola?

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If, like me, you have a dim memory of reading The Hot Zone, all this news about the Ebola Virus emerging again in West Africa, where the current outbreak — the largest we know of — has killed about 700 people, including Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor and three of his nurses.

But there’s no need to panic–at least, as long as you’re not currently in West Africa, Johns Hopkins’s Dr. Diane Griffin told Vice last week. “If I were panicked I’d let you know. I just don’t think there’s any reason for that,” she says, noting that it takes pretty close contact with an infected person for the virus to be spread, and that the public health system in the United States (and elsewhere) have been taking reasonable cautions.

(Still, if you want to freak yourself out, Griffin also notes that this particular outbreak if very widespread, and has about a 70 percent mortality rate.) Another Hopkins immunologist/microbiologist, Dr. Andrew Pekosz, offered reassurance about how the two American aid workers who have contacted the disease will be brought safely back into the U.S.: “The CDC has been planning and putting protocol and facilities and equipment for exactly this kind of event for many years. There is a well-worked-out system from any part of the world where a patient can be identified, prepared and transported and delivered to the containment facility,” he told Discovery. That protocol includes a special plane with isolation chambers, high-tech polyvinyl suits for their heath care assistants, a two-phase decontamination program, and a special isolation ambulance. Pretty intense.

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