A man boards a plane in Liberia with a slight fever. As the jet nears an airport in New York, his temperature rises; his throat grows sore. It's the flu, he thinks after he lands, but he's wrong. He's caught the deadly Ebola virus. He soon dies of hemorrhagic fever while surrounded by family. Some of them catch it, and it's like a flame hitting a fuse. The United States erupts in its first ever Ebola pandemic, as healthcare workers fight an uphill battle to contain it.
It is believed to have killed 729 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria from March through July 27, the World Health Organization said Thursday. It is the worst Ebola outbreak in history. There is no cure and no vaccine, but care from medical workers so far has helped sustain the lives of nearly half of those stricken.
In response to the West African outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, some Boston hospitals are instructing clinical staff to ask patients as soon as they arrive about their travel histories, and reminding doctors and nurses of the symptoms. But hospital officials say they would be ready to quickly identify the illness and prevent its spread if an infected patient showed up, using protocols and equipment already in place.
The city, in concert with local West African community groups, also will hold a public meeting on Sunday to discuss precautions people can take when traveling to the region. Fire Chief Ken Prillaman has put into effect a policy under which firefighters and police officers will wear eye shields and facemasks, as well as gloves, when responding to calls involving flulike symptoms. Responders will also ask all patients with flulike symptoms, regardless of race or ethnicity, about any foreign travel.
By the time Billy Fischer left the Ebola treatment center in Gueckedou, Guinea, early last month, he could complete the meticulous preparation routine in his sleep. First, he donned the scrubs. Then, he pulled on a pair of thick rubber boots that came up to his knees. Then, he put on a body suit made of an impermeable material, two pairs of gloves, a face mask, an impermeable hood that covered his neck and -- finally -- goggles. In the tropical Guinea heat and humidity, it was suffocating. But it also kept him alive.
In This Issue
Liz Di Bernardo