Infectious disease specialist clears up misconceptions about Ebola

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Airports are being to asked to screen people traveling from West Africa to prevent the spread of the Ebola outbreak.

Infectious disease doctors say because of measures like that and other procedures the CDC has in place in the United States, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see anything like that here.

“I suspect that the mortality rate would be a fair amount lower in the United States and I expect with all the given controls, procedures and policies that we have here an epidemic would be squelched  very quickly,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld.

Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist with Baptist, says despite what most people think, Ebola is not nearly as contagious as the flu or common cold.

It doesn’t travel through the air and the only way you can get it is if you come in direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a visibly infected person.

“If there is some good news, it’s the fact people who are a symptomatic are not able to spread the infection. So, if you are sitting next to someone who is not sick and not having  fever, and so forth,  then you are safe. Some of these other infections can spread more effectively even before you get symptoms. That is not true with Ebola,” said Threlkeld.

Ebola starts with flu-like symptoms, like a high fever and muscle pain, but can quickly progress to vomiting, diarrhea, organ failure and uncontrollable internal and external bleeding.

Although Ebola has killed 60 to 90 percent of those infected, doctors say it’s not nearly as bad as other global killers like the flu, measles, and malaria.

“If you look at influenza, more people die every year of influenza than  have died we know of from Ebola,” said Threlkeld.

Hospitals around the country have been testing and isolating potential Ebola patients, but so far, no cases have been reported in the United States.

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