Bioethics Blogs

Ebola – Yes to isolation, quarantine, and travel restrictions (Part I)

By Adil E. Shamoo, Ph.D. (guest blogger)

In 2014, the spread of Ebola topped the headlines. While other issues have supplanted Ebola for the time being, the risk remains as the virus continues to claim victims. A viable Ebola policy that contains the spread must be put into place.

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with body fluids, blood, and skin. Body fluid droplets remain viable for a few hours; the most infectious period is when the patient is exhibiting severe symptoms with high fever, vomiting and diarrhea. The CDC, as of January 7, 2015 informed us that in West Africa, there are 21,086 cases and 8,289 have died from Ebola. It is estimated that 7,738 (about 75 % of all cases) case were contracted through sexual contact. Worldwide estimates, if under-reporting is taken into consideration, are that the number of Ebola infections is as high as 1.5 million cases. 450 healthcare providers in West Africa have contracted the Ebola virus and 244 have died. In the U.S., ten healthcare providers were infected and treated; two died. The life-cycle of the Ebola virus in humans is 21 days. With a fatality rate of 50-80 % , the fear of highly infectious Ebola is understandable. The incubation period is 11.4 days. The WHO data indicates that the disease continues to spread rapidly.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest information on prevention and control of Ebola infection, the primary goal is to reduce human contacts with Ebola patients- especially with their body fluids. The necessity of identifying Ebola patients, monitoring the health of contacts for 21 days, separating the healthy from the sick are encouraged along with personal hygiene precautions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.