There’s been a lot of talk about Ebola in the United States, and perhaps in Hawaii, in recent days — and it is worth thinking about what we’ve discovered.

Locally, someone showed up at Queen’s Medical Center on Wednesday evening and was quietly placed in isolation while doctors worked to determine whether the patient might have been exposed to the Ebola virus.

It was after hours, but word quickly spread about the medical admission. For those engaging in an after-hours search for useful information, there were few places to call. Patient privacy laws, designed to keep the identity of people in the hospital confidential and their details private, compounding the air of secrecy.

Preventing the spread of the Ebola Virus

Though frightening and very lethal, relatively simple precautions can break the cycle of transmission of the Ebola virus, which has spread mostly to three nations in West Africa.

European Commission DG ECHO

There was no reason to panic, Dr. Melissa Viray, the deputy state epidemiologist, explained in a statement. The isolation was just a preemptive measure to protect us all while the situation was investigated further.

Thursday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and the state’s Department of Health announced that the individual was not exhibiting any signs or symptoms of Ebola.

The way the situation was handled raises questions about whether doctors were too quick to quarantine or whether they were showing suitable caution?

There’s certainly been no shortage of Ebola fear since Thomas Eric Duncan was checked in to a Dallas hospital last week after a trip to Liberia, the West African country at the center of a regional Ebola outbreak.

With Duncan’s case firmly in mind, the sick person who showed up at Queen’s Medical Center inspired a suitable response: Isolation until proven otherwise.

Duncan reportedly helped transport a sick pregnant woman to the hospital in Liberia before he boarded a plane to Dallas days later. At that time, he seemed fine.

But in Texas, feeling ill, Duncan went to the emergency room. The staff failed to diagnose his illness and sent him home. At the apartment complex where he was staying, his symptoms worsened. At one point, he vomited profusely — possibly exposing others to the deadly virus.

His nephew Joseph Weeks told the media that after his uncle’s second ER visit — he went back by ambulance —the medical center understood that they were facing a serious problem.

The hospital had initially overlooked Duncan’s recent travel history. As his symptoms progressed, Joseph told doctors that his uncle might suffer from Ebola, even going out of his way to notify the Centers for Disease Control of the possibility.

It turned out that the woman who Duncan helped transport to the hospital in Liberia died from Ebola. So had another passenger who joined in helping to get her there.

Clearly, Mr. Duncan had been exposed and, given his sickness, it was clear that he risked infecting others.

With Duncan’s case firmly in mind, the sick person who showed up at Queen’s Medical Center inspired a suitable response: Isolation until proven otherwise.

This course of action helped to contain what could have been a possible local infection with a particularly deadly virus.

Ebola strikes when someone comes in contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected patient. Within 21 days, symptoms begin and, if not treated, are unrelenting. They include high fevers, severe body aches, diarrhea, and spontaneous bleeding. It is a little like a terrible case of influenza, multiplied many times.

In the past few months, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were brought back to the U.S. after they were infected. Health officials carefully monitored their travel and both received the experimental drug, Zmapp, after they arrived. That medicine, used for the first time on humans, likely helped them to survive — as did first-world supportive care in an isolated environment.

Because of its success, several organizations — such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and Caliber Biotherapeutics — are working on mass producing the treatment, but they admit it will take time to prepare enough doses to share with people in West Africa — something many people stricken by Ebola don’t have.

In early September another American doctor diagnosed with Ebola was brought to Emory University in Atlanta for treatment as well. Little information has emerged about that doctor’s medical status.

And just this week, a freelance NBC cameraman working in West Africa was infected just after starting his job. He will be airlifted back to the U.S. for treatment. Members of the same media team, including Dr. Nancy Snyderman, will be quarantined for 21 days to make sure that they do not have any symptoms of Ebola.

The most important thing to remember is this: Cases of Ebola have been cured in the U.S.

Here are some things that we know: People can be transported and cared for safely but there is a clear risk from people who don’t know they have been infected and show no symptoms.

So what can we expect in the case of someone who still feels fine and is infected, but not diagnosed, who comes home to the U.S.?

The answer isn’t entirely comforting. Remember, Duncan got on a plane with no symptoms or signs of infection. The Centers for Disease Control have clearly stated that no airline passengers who traveled alongside him should be alarmed. But at some point, as he became ill, he likely became infectious — or more infectious.

The most important thing to remember is this: Cases of Ebola have been cured in the U.S.

Being cured is better than simply weathering Ebola. Thousands of people who have survived the illness in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and elsewhere have done just that, although they make up a minority; more than half of all people known to have been infected in recent months have died, according to the World Health Organization.

Given such grim odds, it makes sense that people who are infected would try to escape the epicenter of the outbreak in search of better care.

Numerous countries have pledged support, offered money and even sent personnel to set up makeshift Ebola centers in infected countries to help contain the illness.

But the only place in the world that appears to have successfully cured Ebola is the U.S.

In addition to the experimental medication, supportive care with intravenous fluids, blood transfusions and isolation are all the basic tenants of care for people who show signs of infection.

It’s more than what’s being offered to many of the people in the infected countries in Africa, where some people have been left without any care and turned away from hospitals that are too full.

Ultimately, to get Ebola under control, we will need to strike the virus in the countries where it is most active, rather than waiting until it really reaches the U.S. or Hawaii. And that will mean investing resources to help fight the infection where it is thriving.

That is part of why the World Health Organization is calling on the international community to help. Every hospital in America should be ready to focus more on prevention than on treatment, if the infection breaches its doors.

So we should applaud Queen’s Medical Center for its careful reaction while they assessed whether they were dealing with an Ebola infection.

Even more importantly, we should support the organizations that are on the ground in Africa and help to control the infection at the source.

For the latest updates on Ebola, head to www.cdc.gov. Donations to help efforts on the ground in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone can be directed to http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org

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