If you haven’t been living under a rock lately, you’ve probably heard about the deadly Ebola virus being brought (willingly) on to American soil; so maybe it’s time to start living under a rock and freak out like everybody else in the country.
Sarcasm aside, the deadly strain has made it on to American soil for the first time – at least knowingly. Two doctors who were helping to fight the spread of the disease in Africa were both stricken with it, and over the past week have been transported by a special quarantine jet to Atlanta – a city with a population of nearly 500,000 people.
First, What Is Ebola?
Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is the human disease caused by the Ebola virus. Symptoms typically start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pains, and headaches. Typically nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea follow, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. At this point, some people begin to have bleeding problems.
Signs and symptoms of Ebola usually begin suddenly with a flu-like stage characterized by fatigue, fever, headaches, and joint, muscle, and abdominal pain. Vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite are also common. Less common symptoms include the following: sore throat, chest pain, hiccups, shortness of breath and trouble swallowing. The average time between contracting the infection and the start of symptoms is 8 to 10 days, but it can vary between 2 and 21 days. Skin manifestations may include a maculopapular rash (in about 50% of cases).Early symptoms of EVD may be similar to those of malaria, dengue fever, or other tropical fevers, before the disease progresses to the bleeding phase.
In the bleeding phase, internal and subcutaneous bleeding may present itself through reddening of the eyes and bloody vomit. Bleeding into the skin may create petechiae, purpura, ecchymoses, and hematomas (especially around needle injection sites).
All people infected show some symptoms of circulatory system involvement, including impaired blood clotting.Bleeding from puncture sites and mucous membranes (e.g. gastrointestinal tract, nose, vagina and gums) is reported in 40–50% of cases. Types of bleeding known to occur with Ebola virus disease include vomiting blood, coughing it up or blood in the stool. Heavy bleeding is rare and is usually confined to the gastrointestinal tract. In general, the development of bleeding symptoms often indicates a worse prognosis and this blood loss can result in death.
Okay, so obviously it’s not a pretty thing. The The Hot Zone is an excellent read about the virus, albeit it is exaggerated a bit for cinematic effect.
The debate across America is whether this is safe or not. The two doctors will either live or die, hopefully Emory and the CDC learn valuable information about Ebola, and that will be it. Our sanitation and health care abilities are light years ahead of the countries Ebola is currently rampaging through.
Truthfully, everything will probably be fine.
Morals Of The Doctors
The two doctors, Nancy Writebol and Kent Brantly, made the decision to risk their lives in hopes of saving people in Africa. While it seems a reasonable question why we continue to help countries that are routinely a money sink and provide no value in return – there are people whom are far more giving, caring, and brave than I am.
Supposedly, Writebol and Brantly were among this crowd. In reality, they’re cowards.
When a soldier enlists in the military, and enters an active warzone – can he turn his back on his fellow men and run back to American soil on the first available plane?
Writebol and Brantley, as medical professionals, certainly knew the risks associated with their decision to combat Ebola head-on. They knew they were going to countries with less-than-stellar medical care, and hot conditions that make wearing the necessary Ebola-protected spaceman suit extremely difficult to cope with. They knew they would have a chance to be infected by Ebola.
Finally, they knew that they had a relatively low chance of survival should they contract it (various sources place it somewhere between 60-90%).
Where Are The Medical Ethics?
I will say this again – this will probably end, good or bad, in the Atlanta hospital with Writebol and Brantley. These are the best professionals in the world, and America has kept Ebola in vials for years in America – and people aren’t kneeling over and hemorrhaging blood.
But even the slightest chance of spreading the disease should have been enough for their moral red flags to fly. As a doctor, their job is to save people, not potentially put thousands at risk. Despite the chance to study Ebola closer, and perhaps develop a cure, it is not worth the slight risk to America.
They made their choice, and their bed.
From an ethical standpoint – Nancy Writebol and Kent Brantly should have been left in Africa to bleed in it.