“Do you see this teaspoon? Imagine an amount of blood one-fifth the size of this teaspoon. Not very big. That much blood can contain 10 billion Ebola particles in an infected person.”
A classroom at Arizona Western College was packed with first responders, health care workers and others Monday for a preparedness meeting on the emerging and ever-changing Ebola threat.
The La Paz County Health Department Emergency Management hosted the somber meeting to help agencies understand the Ebola virus, the threat it represents upon exposure and the best practices for response.
So far, Ebola is largely a West African virus, taking thousands of lives there. But the exponential growth of the virus means its infection rate has been doubling roughly once every 3 weeks. Continued pace would mean millions of cases in 2015, with a much higher probability of seeing other cases in the United States.
Epidemiologist Melanie Sarino, M.P.H. compared the virus to molasses: “It moves slowly, you can see it coming, you can prepare for it,” she said. “But when it arrives it’s very difficult to get out of.”
Roughly 7 out of every 10 people who contracted the current form of Ebola died from it. “And we know it’s mutating as it goes from host to host,” Sarino said.
That said, there have only been 3 cases in the United States so far.
La Paz County Health Department has the power to quarantine individuals under certain circumstances in the interest of public health, enforceable by local police agencies. It is believed that such powers, when combined with a generally much better health care system than the one in West Africa, gives the United States a much better chance of not having its own devastating Ebola pandemic.
The local first responders and health care workers were given much food for thought and many resources Monday in Parker. But a lot will depend on how well the virus is contained at the national and international levels.