On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that, for the first time, a patient has been diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus on U.S. soil.
In a press conference, CDC director Tom Frieden explained the situation. On Sept. 19, the unidentified patient left Liberia. He arrived in Dallas, Texas on the following day, and didn’t develop symptoms until September 24. He went to the hospital and was released with an antibiotic on the 26th — at that point, he had developed symptoms but was not diagnosed with Ebola or held in isolation. By the Sept. 26, his symptoms grew worse. He was quarantined at Dallas’s Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Yesterday, he was diagnosed with Ebola.
The CDC calls this year’s Ebola outbreak the largest in history. Back in August, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that in West Africa, “the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.” Last week, Barack Obama warned that “we are not moving fast enough. We are not doing enough,” to contain the virus in West Africa. On Sept. 2, PLOS Currents: Outbreaks published a prescient study that found an 18 percent likelihood of Ebola reaching the U.S.
Frieden said that the CDC’s first priority is to care for the infected patient (on average, half of those diagnosed with the virus survive). Next is to monitor everyone who came in close contact with the patient (Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, and only contagious once the patient starts experiencing the flu-like symptoms). Finally, doctors must monitor all Ebola candidates for three weeks — it can take up to 21 days for symptoms to start showing.
Regardless of how likely it is for Ebola to spread in the US (for the record, not very likely) the news of the virus’s arrival in the States is, obviously, unwelcome. And yesterday, it sent Twitter into a veritable tailspin, with news outlets eager to explain and debunk the Ebola threat:
Now, a second person is being monitored for Ebola in Dallas, and it is still unclear how scared we should be of the virus. Enter the inevitable hashtag, #EbolaQandA, launched by CNN to offer people a chance to ask their Ebola-related questions, and have them answered by CNN’s team of experts on air, tonight.
Some of the questions have been relevant and helpful, and case specific. Here, for instance, one user addresses the news that the Ebola patient was reportedly in contact with several children before being hospitalized:
And some address fears we never even considered:
Some, on the other hand, are almost thoughtful:
And some are not:
And some, presumably, are jokes:
While others, of course, veer towards conspiracy:
If you’re interested, you can check out CNN tonight to see which questions they address. We hope it’s this one:
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.