• Question: is Ebola in Ireland? Are you worried?

    Asked by Jamie to Colin, John, Kevin, Shikha, Triona on 7 Nov 2014. This question was also asked by killa.
    • Photo: Shikha Sharma

      Shikha Sharma answered on 7 Nov 2014:

      Hi Jamie and Killa,
      There are no known cases of Ebola in Ireland presently. Few days ago, I read in the newspaper that there was a woman from Nigeria who was suspected to be infected by Ebola virus and was brought to the Mater Hospital in Dublin. Everyone who witnessed when she was taking the ambulance to hospital observed that the ambulance staff was in special suits to protect themselves against patient body fluids. So, I believe all suitable infection control procedures are being taken by healthcare personnel. Later on, she was declared negative for Ebola.
      I believe that the government is taking the disease very seriously, no matter how low the risk.
      The disease seems to be scary but it cannot be spread by casual contact, shaking someone’s hand or after inhaling airborne germs. It can be transferred by direct contact with bodily fluids, which include feces, saliva, sweat, urine and vomit of the infected person. So, it is not like flu. We don’t have to be really scared of it.
      Researchers are working for development of a vaccine for Ebola virus. Recently, Russian scientists have claimed that they almost have a vaccine for Ebola vaccine and will soon be testing in clinical trials. They are saying that they understand the pathogen and its characteristics. So, the good news is most probably in January they will be sending this vaccine to Africa for trials.
      Let’s hope we will soon have a vaccine for Ebola .

    • Photo: Kevin Motherway

      Kevin Motherway answered on 7 Nov 2014:

      Jamie, Ebola is certainly a very serious problem, but it’s more than that: it’s pure gold if you’re trying to sell newspapers or TV ads. It’s unfortunately the job of many journalists to sell sell sell the story and nothing sells better than fear. “Death virus stalk Africa”, “Ebola terror: are you prepared”. The was a big fuss in the US when a photo showed doctors loading an Ebola patient onto a jet and one of the staff was not wearing a mask, you know the sort of “epic fail” type story. But Ebola is not an airborne disease and the person was more than 2 m away from the patient and was following the rules. It’s spread by direct contact with bodily fluids only. The job of scientist is to ensure we come up with a cure but also to ensure people aren’t unnecessarily afraid of things or worrying needlessly. The spread of this disease can be stopped by careful control of contact. Patients have been treated in UK and Spain and it hasn’t spread like wildfire.
      Bob Geldof put it very well when he said that “people aren’t dying of Ebola, they are dying of poverty”. In Ireland we’re privileged to have the resources to manage these things and we should do all we can to support those countries in west Africa that need those resources to assist people and stop the disease in its tracks. Airborne disease like SARS are far more serious in terms of how they can spread but luckily outbreaks in the past occurred in Hong Kong and Ho Ci Minh City in Vietnam; in modern, highly science-literate cities; and due to the amazing dedication of doctors and scientists (some of whom paid with their lives) the disease was contained in quarantine. The same will happen with Ebola, it’s far easier to contain than many diseases that are airborne, but by mobilising resources and changing cultural practices like families washing the bodies of loved ones before burial it will be stopped.

      “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”‘, Marie Curie