The Ebola outbreak is accelerating in West Africa, and-although fear is a legitimate, natural reaction-Chattanooga residents shouldn’t panic.
“The risk of a widespread outbreak in the United States is very low,”Lookout Mountain nativePerry Maddox said. “‘The risk of Ebola infection to normal people in Chattanooga is minimal.”
Maddox is one of the leaders of a United Kingdom-based charity called Restless Developmentthat is fighting the spread of Ebola in West Africa.
Click here to read a story from earlier this month about Maddox and Restless Development.
Nooga.com talked with Perry again, and he discussed how the outbreak is spreading in West Africa, how organizations like Restless Development are responding, what he thinks about some of the reactions to the disease, and why the United States and U.K. should be hopeful.
The situation in West Africa, Restless Development response
Ebola is spreading there, but it’s not because of any sudden change; it’s more about an accumulation over several months coming to a head now, Maddox said.
“It’s alarming stuff,” he said of the outbreak’s growth.
His organization is focusing on training young people to help communicate how to fight the disease.
A company called SafetyPlus, which has a Chattanooga office, has directed and implemented containment protocols and infectious disease decontamination measures for patients in the U.S. as they have been transported from West Africa to health care institutions in the U.S.
Health care treatment facilities incorporate the SafetyPlus team into their infectious disease responses.
“Our biological emergency response team’s experience and training in using the most advanced techniques and technologies have proven successful,” SafetyPlus COO Clay Wardlaw said in a prepared statement.
With help from Restless Development, hundreds of young volunteers have been walking and motorbiking to Ebola-affected areas to inform communities and support the governments in their responses.
“There’s no shortage of people who are signing up, despite the real risks involved,” he said.
Earlier this month, about 200 volunteers were at work, but Restless Development leaders are scaling up their efforts.
They’ve increased the number of volunteers to 1,400 in hopes of reaching more than 1.4 million people.
They are working in four districts and expanding into the epicenters-areas with denser populations where the disease might spread more quickly.
Restless Development is working with three other organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the problem. Each organization has its own role; and, combined, they are aiming to provide a holistic solution.
Some news outlets are noting some of the most irrational reactions to the outbreak in West Africa.
The reactions seem to come from a misunderstanding of how the disease spreads and what parts of Africa are being impacted, because Africa is a very large continent.
There have been eight Ebola cases in the United States since the beginning of August, according to Reuters. Click here for a detailed account of the cases.
Although this isn’t the case in West Africa, the survival rate for patients in the U.S. is about 80 percent, according to Forbes.
Maddox said fear is a very natural, valid, emotional response. And he said it’s a good thing to be alert and aware.
But wearing a facemask in an airport and blocking all travel from Africa aren’t ideal reactions, he said. Click here to read about travel restrictions that took effect Wednesday morning.
It’s more important to go to the source of the problem, he said.
“Be aware, be safe, and know the symptoms,” he said. “But the logical response is to treat it in Africa. Tens of thousands of cases [there] is how you get more cases in the United States.”
Most of the people in the United States who have gotten the disease have been very close to someone who was infected.
According to the CDC, the disease is transmitted via blood and bodily fluids, syringes or needles, and infected animals.
Also according to the CDC:
Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bush meat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
And Maddox also noted that there is a specific period in which people are contagious.
“Being more safety-conscious is not a bad thing, but we don’t want to whip into a fervor that causes other harm,” he said.
The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of Ebola, which shows that the disease can be contained, according to officials who spoke to Time.
UnlikeLiberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Nigeria only had 20 cases. In the other countries, 4,500 people have died from it.
Time outlined what Nigerian leaders did right to contain the disease. Preparing early, declaring an emergency right away, training local doctors and managing fears all contributed to the Ebola containment, according to Time.
“The Nigeria piece is really encouraging for countries that have a low level of threat,”Maddox said. “You can effectively lock it down.”
Updated @ 10:09 a.m. on 10/23/14 to correct a typographical error.