Ebola, direct contact, symptoms, competent government

From the editorial page of today’s Wall Street Journal, on the potential spread of ebola :

The threat is containable if government is still remotely competent.

Big if.

Check this out: What does “direct contact” mean? The truth about Ebola transmission.

People who are infected with Ebola are not contagious until they become ill, Dr. Beth P. Bell, director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC, said during a press conference Friday.

But people can be ill before they exhibit symptoms, so this advice is fairly worthless. Even then it takes a blood test to find out if their symptoms are from Ebola or something else.

Initial symptoms of Ebola include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is transmitted only through direct contact with bodily fluids from a person who has exhibited symptoms.

So, symptoms of Ebola are similar to a lot things other than Ebola.

Direct contact occurs when bodily fluids— such as blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine or feces— from an infected person, dead or alive, have touched another person’s eyes, nose, mouth or an open cut, wound or abrasion, according to the CDC. Ebola can live outside of the body — on surfaces like countertops or doorknobs, for example — for several hours. In bodily fluids like blood, on the other hand, the virus can survive outside of the body for several days at room temperature.

So “direct contact” doesn’t mean “direct” after all.  Touching a door knob several hours after an Ebola infected person touched it is hardly “direct contact.”

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