GALVESTON — The Ebola virus has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 in West Africa, but the virus can be contained with the proper precautions, a University of Texas Medical Branch expert said.

Tom Ksiazek, director of high containment laboratory operations for the Galveston National Laboratory, just returned from six weeks in Sierra Leone, where he led a team responding to the crisis.

The first case of Ebola in the United States was confirmed in Dallas this week, but Ksiazek said the chance of an epidemic here was “basically zero.”

There have been more than 2,000 cases and about 600 deaths in Sierra Leone. There have been as many as 3,000 deaths in the region, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“This is clearly, without a doubt, the largest and longest (outbreak),” Ksiazek said.

However, Ksiazek said the spread of the disease could be managed.

“I worry a lot more about being in an automobile accident when I go to these outbreaks than I am about being exposed to Ebola,” he said.

The disease is spread through bodily fluids, and health care providers or family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at greatest risk, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control.

Ksiazek spent nearly 20 years with the Centers for Disease Control in the special pathogens branch.

In Sierra Leone, he led a team helping track and control the outbreak. The team performed several tasks, such as helping track the number, place and date of cases. It also set up a laboratory to diagnose patients and helped educate the public and health care workers on the risks and ways to avoid the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends avoiding contact with blood and body fluids, avoiding handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola and monitoring the health of anyone who has traveled to the affected region for at least 21 days.

In Dallas, the Centers for Disease Control is monitoring as many as 18 people who came in contact with the original patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. Duncan had traveled to Liberia but did not have symptoms until arriving in Dallas.

Ksiazek said it may be possible that some of those in contact with Duncan may also contract the disease, but it is not likely to spread since those people are being closely monitored by health care officials.

“There is a lot of mythology surrounding these viruses,” Ksiazek said.

It’s important for people to realize that the disease is not easily transmitted, he said.

“If (people) avoid the really risky things that we try to identify for them, their chance of getting it is pretty minimal or nearly zero,” he said.

Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com.

(7) comments

PD Hyatt

If Ebola is not easy to catch then why are so many catching it in Africa and the CDC is expecting it to explode to over 1.4 million by January.... I for one am so thankful that Ebola is not easy to catch.... I wonder what all those other people think about the amount of people projected to catch this disease.... Either this author is not correct or CDC is blowing this way out of portion!

Beachykeen

If it isn't easy to catch why are they monitoring so many in the Dallas case?? Supposedly 8 children came in contact with the man. Do you think anyone other than the immediate family came into contact with "bodily fluids?" What are bodily fluids? Sweat?? I hope there isn't any sweat on that walmart buggy,,or the restaurant seats, how about door handles?? The CDC is lying. Troops from 3 bases in Texas are being sent to "combat Ebola" And the main one is an armored division. I know this for a fact. I have better sources than the author of this article.

Jim Forsythe

Ebola can not live outside the body on surfaces such as door handles. The reason the concern at the apartment complex is that he got sick on the sidewalk and if someone had been in area when it happen it may be possible to be exposed.
The troops are being sent to help set up the health clinics and other things such as basic sanitation and water . Also helping to educate the people on the basics. My nephew did this all over the world., before he retired. They are lacking almost everything that would help stop the spread of this. Things such a gloves, clean needles and basic supplies.,
Another problem they are having , is some do not understand that they can not touch the ones that are dead, and have body fluids on them

Jim Forsythe

The reason so many are catching it , seems to be lack of basic knowledge of how to protect people from it and a lack of supplies.

The nurses at these hospitals are “lightly trained and minimally protected” and Ebola patients are dying “surrounded by pools of infectious waste,” Nossiter reports.
Daniel Bausch, a doctor and associate professor in the department of tropical medicine at Tulane, went to Sierra Leone in July and saw many of the same conditions.
He told Business Insider in August that in some hospitals, there is no running water, soap, or clean needles, which are all crucial to controlling the outbreak and preventing further spread of disease.
“The scale of this outbreak has just outstripped the resources,” Bausch said.

PD Hyatt

I for one hope and pray that you are correct BigJim as the CDC seems to be talking out of both sides of their mouths. Even the UN (which I do not trust) is even wondering about the scope and the depth of this Ebola outbreak. They are even saying that it could go airborne. Yesterday there was an article from a Missouri microbiolisigist who says that he thinks that CDC is lying to the American public to keep the truth from them. BTW, why would anyone allow people that have visited that area to come here to the USA without holding them in quaranteen? If 1.4 million get Ebola over there in the next few months do you really want to be that it will not spread far beyond their borders?

Jim Forsythe

You asked why was it spreading so fast in Africa and the reason is the lack of. The USA, Bill Gates and others are sending money to help them get a handle on it. This is nothing new as there has been outbreaks before.
Quarantining may be needed , but better screening will be in place I hope.
I'm more concerned about the virus that is making a lot of young one's sick which seems to spreading fast in the USA.

Doyle Beard

Are you for real, why is it spreading if it is not easy to catch?

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