Ebola: Understanding the illness

Ebola: Understanding the illness

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The first ebola patient diagnoses here in the United States and now health officials are monitoring 12 to 18 other people who may have been exposed to the patient.

"I wasn't really that surprised, considering how big the epidemic is in Africa," said Lauren Richey, professor of medicine at Medical University of South Carolina.

According to Richey,  many people are misinformed about just how infectious it is. Richey said a person who is infected can only spread ebola once their symptoms start showing, which on average takes around 10 days.

"The exposure is not casual contact its not like us sitting here talking, it would have to be vomit, diarrhea or something getting into a mucus membrane or an open skin sore," said Richey.

Some symptoms of ebola mirror other illnesses, but Richey said each have something that sets it apart. Ebola symptoms are headaches, muscle aches, or nausea and the biggest indicator is a high fever, according to Richey.

"Most of the time with the common cold, you don't have very high fevers you tend to have your symptoms sort of isolated to your throat," said Richey. "You have swollen glands, sometimes sore throat, a cough, pain with swallowing."

Richey said Enterovirus and the flu are both more respiratory illnesses, and commonly cause heavy coughing and trouble breathing.

While the CDC says they're going to do everything possible to stop Ebola in its tracks, MUSC says they're prepared in case ebola hits the Lowcountry.

"We have fliers up at all points of entry in the hospital that basically ask if you've traveled to any of these areas in Africa to let us know," said Richey.

MUSC has also created a special committee and designed a plan for where in the hospital infected patients would be cared for and how they would be treated.

"I think people are much more worried about this then they need to be, it seems like there's a lot of widespread panic actually," said Richey.

Richey said right now there is no main treatment for ebola. However, an experimental vaccine was used to treat the two American aid workers who contracted ebola.

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