Today's News, Tomorrow's Lesson - October 6, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

PBS Newshour Extra

The first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. during the current outbreak is being treated at a hospital in Dallas, Texas.

The patient arrived from Liberia by plane on September 20. He began showing symptoms on September 24 and sought medical care on September 26. Two days later, he entered a Dallas hospital and was placed in isolation. Soon after, he tested positive for Ebola.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will now attempt to identify everyone who could have been in direct contact with the patient and will monitor them for 21 days since their exposure. Any person who develops symptoms will be isolated to minimize the chance they could infect others.

The Ebola outbreak began in the African nation of Guinea in March and quickly spread to the neighboring countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Nigeria. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and many Ebola victims contracted the disease through funeral rites or caring for sick relatives. Ebola has an incubation period of 8-10 days after exposure, though it can be as short as two days or as long as 21 days.

In Africa, the outbreak has shown a case fatality rate of approximately 50 percent, although the numbers may be higher due to inconsistencies in case reporting. There is no effective vaccine or treatment for Ebola, though several vaccines are currently in development.

The virus has proven difficult to contain in areas with weak health infrastructures that lack the resources to isolate and treat victims; in Liberia, many hospitals shut down in the wake of the outbreak.

Solid plans to deal with an epidemic that are already in place and a strong hospital system in the U.S. makes it unlikely that many people will get sick, according to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

“I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country,” he said.

The CDC has enhanced laboratory tests for Ebola and developed tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations. The organization has also provided a set of guidelines for flight crews and emergency medical workers to identify and report ill travelers.

President Obama announced earlier this month that the U.S. would ramp up efforts to fight the virus in West Africa by sending 3,000 troops to affected areas and building new treatment centers to house 1,700 patients. The U.S. will also help establish a facility to train health workers and distribute home health kits.


1. The Director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, said, “I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country.” Why do you think he is confident that it will not spread the way it has in West Africa? Give specific examples.

2. The individual who is sick with Ebola in Texas had been visiting Liberia. Based on your knowledge of how Ebola spreads, what are the two things that he could have done that could have caused him to become infected with Ebola?

3. Do you think our government, including the CDC and the president, is doing a good job to stop Ebola from spreading in the United States? What about their efforts to stop the spread of Ebola in Africa?