Ebola has officially been declared an international emergency by the WHO, and has quickly become the biggest outbreak which started in West Africa. But as the disease ravages Africa and is seen to be moving to other parts of the world, there are a lot of myths and misinformation doing the rounds about the disease. So, to help set the record straight, we bust 7 of the commonest myths regarding Ebola.
The virus is thought to have been spread from animals to man and is capable of being contagious even before any symptoms are seen. Having killed over 700 people, the Ebola virus is known to be fatal 90% of the times. This apathy was highlighted in a news report by NEWSY, where Dr Sanjay Gupta said in an interview with CNN that people in Africa have a severe lack of knowledge regarding the virus and how it spreads. They touch the bodies of people who have died due to the infection, and get infected. This then spreads to people around them. Apart from that in a startling revelation, one person interviewed in Africa said that he did not believe that Ebola was real, while eating a piece of bush meat. As the disease continues killing, it is this belief that only makes the situation worse.
Myth #2: Ebola can only spread through blood
Fact: Ebola can spread through all body fluids including blood, sweat, semen, saliva and any other discharge.
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This is mainly because of the way the virus attacks the body. Apart from affecting a person's immune system, Ebola multiplies extremely fast and soon spreads throughout a person's body. It then systematically infects all systems of the human body barring the nervous system. This leads to bleeding and breakdown of all the defense mechanisms of the body. The infection becomes so severe that at a given time there can be up to 1000 viral cells in one drop of body fluid (especially blood).
Myth #3: Having safe sex can prevent you from getting infected by the Ebola virus
Fact: This is a false belief again. The Ebola virus spreads through all bodily fluids.
Therefore practicing safe sex with a person who has the infection will not prevent you from getting infected. Any contact with an infected person can lead to the infection. Things like touching, kissing and sex will cause the infection. The only thing a condom can help prevent is the fact that you might not catch the infection through semen, but the other sources will still cause Ebola.
Myth #4: There is a cure for Ebola
Fact: There is no known and FDA approved drug in the market to cure an infection caused due to the Ebola virus.
Ebola virus disease is spread due to a virus and so far, does not have a cure. While there is an experimental drug being used on patients in Africa called ZMapp, this drug is still in the testing stages and has not been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). ZMapp is a mixture of antibodies that are designed to target and inactivate the Ebola virus. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDS), the drug is combination of three different antibodies produced by exposing mice to fragments of the virus. Even though this drug has not yet passed FDA approval its use has helped a number of people and there have been cases of them showing signs of recovery.
Myth #5: Fasting will help cure Ebola
Fact: Absolutely not. Fasting can in fact worsen the condition
While there are studies that have found that fasting can help improve one's immunity, but if done over a long period of time it can be detrimental for you. Not only will it make you weaker and more susceptible to the disease, but fasting over a period of time can lead a weakened immune system. This myth came about when a group of women activists in Africa said that they would fast for 14 days, after which the virus would not infect anybody world over. While obviously this did not work, it just went to prove that such beliefs can only serve to worsen an epidemic and do nothing to help it.
Myth #6: Ebola only affects Africans
Fact: Ebola affects humans irrespective of their racial background.
While the Ebola virus did first affect people from West Africa, it does not restrict itself to Africans alone. The virus is known to have spread to the US, Myanmar and other African countries. The disease has been declared an international emergency by the WHO and therefore is deadly for all humans.
Myth #7: You will not get Ebola if you have a healthy immune system
Fact: The state of your immune system does not dictate if you can or cannot get infected
A healthy immune system is definitely very important to prevent diseases, but the Ebola virus has become so potent that it can infect people with even the most robust immune system. Since the virus attacks the body and uses a person's immune response to spread, the health of one's immune system does not stop this virus from infecting a person.