Ebola’s outbreak in the U.S. this year scared a lot of people, but not everything that’s been said about the virus has been true, according to Pierce College Assistant Professor of Life Sciences Margarethe Cooper.
Cooper spoke about the history, myths and fears of the virus at her “Dispelling the Myths About Ebola” presentation at Pierce on Thursday, Nov. 20, in the CFS Lecture Hall.
“It has people scared because it hit home,” Cooper said.
People have blown Ebola out of proportion because of what they’ve seen in movies, including those about zombies, Cooper said.
“It is feeding into our fears, because of the media and movies that we have seen,” Cooper said.
But Ebola won’t turn anyone into the undead.
Ebola was first discovered in 1976 in the Congo, known as Zaire at the time. A hunter thought he had Malaria, but actually had Ebola. Needles that were used on him for his malaria treatment were reused on other patients, which was believed to have spread Ebola from him to other people.
The villages in the Congo struggled with transportation and sanitation, so the virus spread rapidly, Cooper said.
“I did not know how it was started, so this talk was very informative,” said microbiology major Maria Sanchez.
Ebola is transferred by direct human contact with blood and other bodily fluids from an infected person or animal. It attacks white blood cells, and multiplies within them. It is not an airborne virus, which is a common misconception, Cooper said.
Cooper explained that fruit bats who put their saliva on fruit can also spread the virus to other animals and humans.
“Studies have implicated that the virus can circulate in bats as a possible reservoir of Ebola,” Cooper said.
The virus can be transferred for up to three months after an infected person is declared healthy.
There are two potential Ebola vaccines, with one of them to go into testing, Cooper said.
The best way to avoid spreading Ebola is to use proper equipment when treating infected patients, and to have good sanitation.
When Ebola hit Dallas, Texas, people worried because the virus was closer than ever.
“When I first heard about it I was a little bit worried,” said health major Jonathan Ruiz. “Because of all the movies that I have seen.”
Ebola is another deadly virus, but there is one out there that is far more common, and far more deadly, Cooper said.
“We have to worry about the flu,” Cooper said. “The flu kills 3,000 – 49,000 people every year.”