You’ve heard about it in the news: Ebola. What you might not realize is that in vulnerable areas, mothers and children are at most risk. Save the Children reports that many women are frightened to go to medical centers and are giving birth without skilled assistance, and children with weak immune systems are struggling the most against the disease.
A recent article in the New York Times clearly spells out some of the key facts in this battle.
Where is Ebola? Cases have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, all in the Western part of Africa. Two Americans infected with Ebola while working in West Africa treated in a special unit in Atlanta, Georgia and released in good health.
How many people have been infected? More than 2,600 people have contracted Ebola so far during this outbreak, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of those infected, more than half have died, often because of lack of access to proper care, and already weakened immune systems.
Is this a serious outbreak? It is the deadliest outbreak of Ebola ever. Before this outbreak, the most significant occurrence was in 1976, when the virus was first identified.
Is it very contagious? Ebola is not airborne. The virus only spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids. Experts say the risk of anyone contracting Ebola in the United States is extremely small. On a recent Mother Jones’ Inquiring Minds podcast assessing the potential impact of Ebola in countries like the United States, Kent State University epidemiologist and Ebola expert Tara Smith says, “When I think about diseases that are deadly, that are highly contagious, Ebola is way down the list, and influenza and measles are much, much higher,” Smith says. Influenza kills 20,000 to 30,000 people in the US every year. She continues, “Ebola, all told, has killed about 2,500 people worldwide since 1976.”
What’s the cure? There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola. Doctors and other health care workers treat symptoms and infections, focusing on maintaining blood pressure. Fluids and medications are used to treat any accompanying illnesses.
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Save the Children and many other agencies are working to help medical staff in Liberia, Mali and other outbreak areas. They are training teachers, health workers, nurses, and local organizations on prevention measures against Ebola and distributing protective kits in schools.
Photo credit: Save the Children. A Mali mother and her child. Mali is one of the countries impacted by the current outbreak.