WATCH: Public health professor says Ebola is not a threat to students


Jessica Pellegrino General Assignment Reporter

Since Ebola hit West Africa, Southern Professor Dr. John Nwangwu, has traveled to and from Ebola stricken countries to aid in containing the epidemic.

Nwangwu is a Southern public health professor, but he also works for the World Health Organization.

“When I am not working at Southern or Yale, I am a consultant for the governments of different countries in the United Nations. I’m on call 24/7. I first got called into Guinea for Ebola.” said Nwangwu.

The once offshore crisis recently hit close to home when a Yale student was quarantined for showing potential symptoms of Ebola, after travelling to Liberia and back. After an isolated period Yale-New Haven Hospital, the patient tested negatively to Ebola.

A few days later, a non-symptom showing family from West Haven embarked on a 21 day long quarantine for having returned home from Ebola-stricken Liberia.

Suddenly, a slew of panic ensued in the entire state of Connecticut. Individuals refused to go to hospitals with potential Ebola patients and airports became a place of fear.

When Ebola is first potentially detected, the symptoms mimic that of an average infection. So the first step is to establish whether the situation at hand is or is not Ebola. If it is, the most important step in quarantining the patient.

Nwangwu said, “The key strategy is to attack the chain of infections, meaning the way of controlling Ebola is through quarantining. However, in order to help the cause, our team needs to stay alive. We trained Doctors without Borders to protect themselves and to be able to identify Ebola.”

Ebola is a rapidly spreading epidemic in under resourced countries, specifically in West Africa.

“After diagnosing the problem, we need to find a facility for isolation.” said Nwangwu. “That is where we run into problems in West Africa. There were no facilities, so you had people dying in their homes, or even leaving their homes to die in the woods. As a result, infected bodies were everywhere. There was also a cultural challenge. How do you tell a parent you have to take their child away?”

The United States hospital system is large and brimming with the necessary resources to isolate cases of Ebola. Nwangwu said with the facilities, potentially convertible facilities, and ambulance system, the United States is ready for any cases to come its way.

“It is a normal human reaction to panic about things you cannot explain.” said Nwangwu. “People want to survive and they will always react a certain way when their lives are being threatened. But factually, I don’t see a mass number of Ebola cases coming to the U.S.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six individuals have been treated for Ebola in the United States. Of the six cases, one person is now deceased. U.S Ebola patients are truly beating the odds, compared to Guinea, where this Ebola outbreak started. Guinea’s survival rate is at around 30 percent, a much lower number than America’s 83 percent survival rate.

Steve Krozer, nursing student at SCSU, said the immediate threat of Ebola has passed.

Krozer said, “Ebola is transferred very easy so that’s concerning but the threat in U.S is pretty much neutralized at this point.”

Ebola is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual. It is so easily spread in countries like Guinea and Liberia, because these countries lack the proper public health infrastructures to combat the outbreak. Therefore, it is able to transport quickly and efficiently.

Video Credit: Monica Zielinski

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