Keith A. Reynolds
Staff Writer

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that Thomas Eric Duncan, a patient in Dallas, Texas, has tested positive for the Ebola virus on Sept. 30.

The disease has been cutting a bloody swath through western Africa over recent months but America had been, until now, spared from the viral menace. Duncan seems to have contracted the disease in Liberia. After being screened in Liberia before his departure on Sept. 19, he traveled to Texas to visit his family.

He began to show symptoms on Sept. 24 and sought treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Sept. 25, but was sent home. Duncan was finally admitted on Sept. 28 and placed in isolation leading up to the CDC announcement on Sept. 30. At the time of this writing, Candace White, a spokeswoman for the hospital he’s being treated at has reported that he is in critical condition.

Microbiology professor at Lorain County Community College Dr. Harry Kestler knows a few things about Ebola and shared a bit of that knowledge with his classes as well as The Collegian.

“I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. Let me tell you the bad news first. The bad news is that there’s Ebola in America. The good news is that there’s Ebola in America. And the reason that it’s both [good and bad news] is: obviously it sucks that there’s Ebola in America but it’s good in that in every single corner of America right now, every single water cooler, people are talking about Ebola virus.”

When describing the virus, Kestler likes to stress the survival rate more than the mortality rate.

“Ebola is a virus that has about a 70 percent fatality rate and I want to point out that that’s also a 30 percent not fatality,” he said. “ It is a virus that is what we call a filovirus and it’s got a good fatality rate within a fairly short period of time.”

He continued, “There’s something very special about that 30 percent, and I spend most of my life working on vaccines for HIV. I’m not confident that there’s going to be an HIV vaccine. I really am not. I’m pessimistic about it. I think we will control HIV by non-vaccine methods. I’m very confident that there will be an Ebola vaccine. Why? There are people who survive, that 30 percent. Right now in Africa, the National Institutes of Health, Allergy and Infectious Disease Institute is testing a vaccine. I wish there were five vaccines they were testing because they would be competing against each other for the better one, but we only have one available right now and we should know, really, in terms of weeks. Maybe by Thanksgiving we’ll know if it works and I’m very hopeful that it does.”

Dr. Kathy Durham of the Biology Department at LCCC works closely with Kestler and feels that, “Ebola is a scary thing in some respects because if you do get infected with it, it can be very, very devastating and it’s not always an easy cure but there are a lot of things about Ebola that, I think, if we educate the general public about it, people will rest a lot more easily.”

“For example, Ebola, you can’t catch it through the air,” Durham continued. “ So if I’ve got Ebola and I’m sitting here right beside you and I could be puking, you can’t get it from me. The only way you can get it is from bodily fluids. So, that’s why medical personnel are the ones that normally get it, because their hands go in things like blood and urine and saliva and things like that. Secondly, if you’re infected with Ebola and you’re not having symptoms, you can’t give it to somebody else. So you have to be in full blown symptom mode to transfer it to another person and normally those people are so sick they’re like doing what the guy in Texas did and walking into a hospital and saying, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”

Hope Moon, interim dean of Allied Health, Nursing, Health, Physical Education & Recreation, feels that, “Nurses deal with deadly contagious diseases on a daily basis, so I don’t believe there will be any new challenges in caring for these patients. I think the biggest challenge for nurses will be education. Just like when HIV appeared the general public was fearful based on rumor and incorrect information. One of nurse’s major roles is to educate, and this will probably be our biggest challenge.”

Kestler feels that the arrival of Ebola in America is actually good for the world at large. “It’s good in that in every single corner of America right now, every single water cooler, people are talking about Ebola virus. You and I are talking about Ebola virus right now, and that’s wonderful because that is the kind of focused attention that we need. Washington is very focused in just doing things for Americans and I guess I get that, but until it hits home, we don’t touch it. If there’s a virus in Timbuktu it’s our business, because as we have learned, viruses can get on airplanes and go anywhere they want. And that just happened a couple weeks ago.”

To summarize the situation, “ In the past, we’ve always been able to crush Ebola. We’ve always been able to push it down. This is different though. This is real, as I posted on my Facebook, I said ‘S just got real.’ Shit just got real… Usually it’s been Medecins Sans Frontieres which is Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders has been able to go in and shut things down almost every time and this time, they’re saying ‘We’re in trouble’,” Kessler said.

Durham shared similar views to that of Kessler; “I think the critical thing to get out to the public is that yes it’s serious and yes if you get Ebola that’s serious, serious, serious. But it’s not spread as easily, at all as the common cold or the common flu that we get in the winter time, and stuff. So, that’s the one thing going for us, is that the spread is much more stringent. And so, I think that that’s good.”

Abigail Wakefield contributed to this article