If Ebola Arrives in U.S., What Happens?


Last week, a former Minnesota resident died of Ebola in Nigeria. This week, the what-ifs are rampant.

The victim's wife said her husband had been scheduled to fly to Minneapolis in mid-August to attend a birthday party for two of their children. "He could have brought Ebola here," she told The Daily Beast.

Watch "Ebola: Are We Next?" on Thursday, Sep. 18, starting at 9/8c on both Discovery Channel and Discovery Fit & Health.

Two other Americans in Africa have been diagnosed with the disease, and Sierra Leone's leading Ebola doctor died of it yesterday. Among the volunteers the Peace Corps is removing from three affected countries in Africa, two have had confirmed exposure to an Ebola victim. They're being isolated outside the United States until they get medical clearance.

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While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued both a Level 2 travel alert, recommending those traveling to Africa "avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids," and a Health Alert Notice to U.S. health care workers, experts and officials believe there's no need for panic. Far from it, in fact: "It's extremely unlikely," said Thomas Geisbert, a virologist with the University of Texas in Galveston, Texas, who studies Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers.

And, if someone were diagnosed anywhere in the United States, "every infectious disease doctor in any hospital would be on full alert for signs and symptoms," Geisbert said. "For containing outbreaks, with quarantine and prevention we're 90 percent of the way there."

How Can Ebola Be Stopped?

Even if someone with Ebola got on an airplane to the United States, "it's very unlikely that they would be able to spread the disease to fellow passengers," said Dr. Stephan Monroe, deputy director of CDC National Center for Emerging & Zoonotic Diseases in a press conference call.

"The Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with the blood, secretions, or other body fluids of ill people, and indirect contact -- for example with needles and other things that may be contaminated with these fluids. Most people who become infected with Ebola are those who live with and care for people who have already caught the disease and are showing symptoms."

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