Image via CDC/ Frederick A. Murphy

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) just confirmed that a case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States. This isn't the first case of an individual with Ebola entering the States, as American citizens were previously treated for the disease on U.S. soil; however, those individuals were infected while abroad and were intentionally brought to the U.S. for treatment. Consequently, this latest announcement marks the first case of Ebola discovered on North American soil.

On Monday (September 29, 2014), doctors at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas stated that a man had been placed in isolation because of his travel history and symptoms. In a statement, the Texas Department of State Health Services asserted, "The patient is an adult with a recent history of travel to West Africa. The patient developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from West Africa and was admitted into isolation on Sunday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas." The CDC just announced that the individual does have Ebola; however, no other information has been released.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 3,000 have died since the first outbreak was identified in Guinea six months ago, and more than 6,500 cases have been confirmed.

Don't Panic:

Although we may look at a person who is infected with Ebola like some modern day Typhoid Mary, it is (for all intents and purposes) not very easy to spread Ebola. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get Ebola just by looking at an infected person. The virus is not spread through the air, but through bodily secretions (like blood or urine). Since we know that Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, doctors and other medical personnel have head-to-toe protective gear to keep them safe. Sadly, in most nations where the disease quickly spreads, they do not have access to these protective measures. As a result, the highest infection rate is found in doctors and nurses in these nations. Although this is upsetting, we do have access to protective gear in the States.

So the risk of getting Ebola from someone in the United States is very small.

 And although we don’t have a way to beat Ebola, in an article published  in Nature, researchers that were working  in Fort Detrick in Maryland announced that they may have found a way to fight it. The scientists discovered a molecule that can be used to stop the virus (and other viruses in the same family) in its tracks. This molecule is so effective because it looks a lot like the “A” that makes up DNA: adenosine. The molecule is called ” BCX4430,” and since it looks so much like Adenosine, viruses like Ebola can accidentally use it as a building block when trying to grow inside our cells. Ultimately, this is fantastic news for us (not so fantastic for the virus) as the use of this molecule blocks the virus’ growth and reproduction (effectively stopping the virus). However, this find still requires much scrutiny and study.

The main thing to remember is this: It is only passed through bodily fluids. Early diagnosis and access to modern medicine greatly increases the chances of survival. Ebola is not a death sentence.

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