Ebola and the US: What You Need to Know - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Ebola and the US: What You Need to Know

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The Ebola virus kills 60 to 90 percent of the people that come into contact with it. Right now, it's confined to West Africa, but some say there's not much keeping it from spreading to the United States.

Ebola is spread through contact with fluids from an infected person. Hundreds of people have been killed by the disease in Africa. It's so contagious, health workers must be completely covered in protected clothing to work with patients.

An Ebola scare happened just this week in North Carolina. A hospital emergency room was closed for several hours because of a suspected Ebola patient. Nothing came of it, but officials at the Black Hawk County Health Department said that could happen anywhere.

"We would probably be the first people to hear about anything that came down the pipe," said Jon McNamee, Division Manager of the Department.

His office tracks the spread of diseases, mostly, food-borne illnesses. But if something really serious, like Ebola, made it here, they'd be the first line of defense.

"We'd be looking at patients, looking at the situation," McNamee said. "Who was exposed, and who wasn't, and trying to build a wall around those individuals, so you can get better control."

He said it only takes one flight carrying on sick passenger to spread the disease. Currently, 84 flights per week leave infected areas for airports connecting to the United States.

"People move rapidly, and when people move rapidly, diseases move rapidly," he said. "So we're always watching very careful to see how a disease is moving."

On the off-chance a case pops up in Iowa, McNamee said he would inform higher-level health organizations, that would quarantine patients and try to stop the spread. The Department also tracks West Nile, measles and tuberculosis cases, among others.

But as for Ebola, McNamee said he's not worried, but definitely concerned.

"The reason we're concerned is because of how fast our world moves," McNamee said. "We can be in Africa this afternoon and in Pittsburgh tomorrow."

That's why he doesn't recommend traveling to affected regions right now.

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