BALTIMORE (AP/WJZ/ CBS LOCAL)–With more than 700 people dead from the Ebola virus in West Africa, fears are running rampant of the virus spreading globally. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is siding on caution.
This is the worst outbreak of the deadly disease in history. Experts warn that the virus could easily spread to the U.S. as more than 1,000 cases have been reported in the African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Joshua Sharfstein says the department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical partners in Maryland to spot and respond to imported ebola, he Tweeted on Friday morning.
Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology for the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, told CBS Local that he thinks there’s a “reasonable chance an infected person” could bring the Ebola virus back to the U.S.
“I think there’s a reasonable chance that an infected person could come to the U.S. unknowingly,” Morse said. “We have had for example health care workers who have been volunteering to work there. Some of them have tragically become infected with it. The fact that the incubation period for this virus could be a few days to a week, but also can be as long as three weeks is a problem. Someone could get infected, be on a plane and bring it back to America.”
The virus has spread across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and earliest stages symptoms include fever, aches and a sore throat, according to the World Health Organization. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment for the disease which is one of the reasons why it has a fatality rate of at least 60 percent.
U.S. health officials are telling Americans to put off non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the outbreak.
A total of more than 700 people have died in all three countries.
Meanwhile, a military spokesman for the African Union mission in Somalia says the AU has canceled a planned troop rotation by Sierra Leonean forces because of the outbreak.
Leone is one of five nations that send large numbers of troops to Somalia to protect the government and fight al-Shabab militants.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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