By Ramil Rodriguez
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
Distinguishing the truths and myths about the Ebola virus brought more than 200 people together Wednesday, Oct. 22, to a forum at the University of the Incarnate Word.
“Initially we thought that an Ebola case could be handled out of the blue,” said Dr. Jose Cadena, one of the six panelists who led the discussion at Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Profession. “But we (have) learned from that (Dallas) case that we have to take extra precautions.”
Cadena, assistant chief of infectious diseases in the University of Texas Health Sciences system, was joined on the panel by Dr. Ricardo Carrion Jr., a laboratory scientific manager at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute; Dr. Anil T. Mangla, assistant director of health for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District; Dr. John R. Graybill, a professor emeritus in the area of infectious disease for the UT Health Sciences system; Dr. Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, a public health specialist and adjunct instructor in biology at UIW; and Jose F. Martinez, Jr., director of UIW’s International Student & Scholar Services.
Carrion said Ebola was first discovered in Germany of 1967 and its first outbreak took place in 1976.
“In nature, a reservoir [most likely a bat] harbors the virus and salivates the fruit of a tree,” Carrion said. “The fruit is then eaten by a prime ape where the animal then develops illness.”
In Africa, a variety of animals end up as “bush meat” that humans consume, panelists noted.
“In the actual outbreak we are seeing, you have this accumulation of events where people are taking care of sick people and transmitting the disease,” Carrion said.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control has issued an evolving set of protocols to help hospitals handle Ebola cases and protect health care workers by ensuring the workers are
aware of how the disease is transmitted, providing them with personal heavily protected equipment, assuring drills are being run so they learn how to put on and take off equipment,
making sure workers know where to put the patients and how to move them around the hospital, and handling and disposing of biomedical waste.
Graybill said the reason why vaccines hadn’t been created for the virus yet is because of lack of funding.
“We are really close to an Ebola vaccine [now],” Carrion said.
America is much better-prepared now to deal with Ebola cases, the panel said.
“We have the skills to isolate and do contact tracking to make sure it doesn’t spread,” Mangla said. “Africa doesn’t have that infrastructure, and that is where the concern is. So if people are fearful for this disease, you really should not be because we have the capabilities to contain it.”