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CDC Downplays Ebola's Threat to the United States

Deadly virus relatively slow to transmit, and travel factors make spread from West Africa unlikely
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The deadly Ebola virus that continues to rage throughout West Africa poses little risk to Americans, U.S. health officials stressed Monday.

Ebola only spreads through physical touch, and it can't be spread by people who aren't showing symptoms of infection, Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the National Center for Emerging & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explained in a Monday afternoon news conference.

Those factors -- and the fact that most flights between West Africa and the United States require one or more stops in other countries -- make it unlikely that a sick person could make it all the way to America and spread the Ebola virus, CDC officials said.

Concern was raised over the weekend when it was reported that an Ebola-infected man from Liberia flew to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, only to die soon after his arrival. Health officials are trying to track down any contacts the man might have had during his journey.

Still, Monroe believes that "the likelihood of this outbreak spreading outside of West Africa is very low," although countries in the region will probably continue to see cases.

The current outbreak is the deadliest ever for Ebola, causing more than 670 deaths and 1,200 infections in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.

However, the death rate from Ebola during the current outbreak is about 60 percent compared to 90 percent from prior outbreaks -- indicating that early treatment efforts have been effective, Monroe said.

A pair of recent cases have highlighted the ease with which people can hop an airplane after becoming infected with Ebola or having come in contact with an Ebola patient.

No one is certain how the Liberian man, Patrick Sawyer, was able to board a plane and travel to Nigeria. His plane had a layover in the West Africa nation of Togo, and health officials are now scrambling to trace anyone who may have been exposed to Sawyer at any of the three international airports through which he traveled.

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