While Guina claims its outbreak of Ebola is "almost under control," the fact is that the deadly virus had broken out of remote villages surrounded by forest into the capital city, and the rest of the world wonders: is it next?
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As the death count neared 130, Guinea explained on Tuesday that new cases were becoming fewer and the pace of death was diminishing. But the incidence of the outbreak in the capital city of Conakry with its population of some 2 million – and international airport – is a terrifying thought for the rest of the planet. Clearly, people carrying the virus who don't feel its effects yet can travel, and in fact, cases were reported in the neighboring country of Liberia – first near the border with Guinea and now in the capital of Monrovia as well. Cases are suspected in Mali and Sierra Leone as well.
Doctors beg to reassure that B-movies aside, Ebola is actually hard to contract. Catching the disease requires physical contact with a victim's body fluids. Or, with objects that were contaminated with a victim's fluids.
That said, the incubation period from infection to full-blown Ebola can take as long as three weeks, during at least some of which, the victim is in a state of blissful ignorance.
Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, agrees that asymptomatic sufferers taking international flights are a problem. That isn't a likely scenario, he told "The Wrap" - but said in the same breath that he sees an "increasingly real" likelihood of the virus spreading out of Africa.
What can be done to halt the spread? Ebola's early symptoms include flu-like signs, including fever and loose bowels, as well as pain in the joints. Travelers admitting to symptoms of the kind simply aren't allowed on the plane in Conakry International, which installed heat-sensitive technology to detect passengers with high body temperature. Senegal took the preventative measure of shutting down its border with Guinea.
Closer to home, the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have been pouring resources into Guinea, where much effort is going into education – and locating and warning the families of victims, who may have been infected and may meanwhile be getting about and spreading the disease themselves.
There is no vaccine and no known cure for Ebola, which was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, a distance of more than 5,000 kilometers. The fact that this latest and biggest outbreak was in Guinea, nowhere near Congo, demonstrates that the danger of spread is real. Anywhere from half to 90% of people contracting the Ebola virus will die.