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Ebola virus strikes close to home

A man who had returned to Dallas from Liberia has checked into the Texas Presbyterian Hospital and is being treated in isolation after being diagnosed with the Ebola virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday.

The chances of Ebola virus reaching Houston are low because the virus can only be transmitted through direct contact like bodily fluids, said Shaun Zhang, a professor in the department of biology and biochemistry.

“Usually the virus can be found in a patients fluid-like blood and any other body fluids like sweat or saliva,” Zhang said.

The patient, Thomas E. Duncan, a Liberian national, flew to Dallas from Liberia on Sept. 20 and started developing symptoms a few days later.

Some symptoms of the ebola virus include fever, vomiting, severe headache, weakness, stomach pain, diarrhea, and hemorrhage. These symptoms usually begin developing between two to 21 days. There is no current cure for the virus; however, the treatment comes from the symptoms.

“Our immune system is one of our best wonders,” Ana I. Medranosaid, an Instructional Associate Professor at the Department of Biology and Biochemistry.

“What we do with viral infections is basically treat the symptoms and allow the patient to be as comfortable as possible,” Medranosaid. “If you are treating the symptoms and the patient is not really stressed with any other elements then the immune system can focus on getting rid of the pathogen, in this case.”

As of Sept. 30, over 7,000 people have been in contact with the ebola virus in Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Guinea. An estimated 3,500 people have died.

“It’s a terrible feeling knowing that many people have died cause of this deadly virus,” said biology senior Diane Francis.

Officials have said that Duncan has believed to have come in contact with as up to 18 people who are currently being monitored for any developing symptoms.

“I don’t believe the Ebola virus will reach Houston, as those people who have been in contact with the patient in Dallas are being closely monitored,” Francis said. “But it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.”

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