The current outbreak of Ebola has ignited a wave of alarm and general freak-out around the world. So the latest episode of It's Okay To Be Smart is here to give this whole situation a nice calm, comforting, scientific hug.
To quote American science writer David Quammen, "Ebola is no death angel, it's just a virus." The Ebola virus itself isn't the scariest thing about the current outbreak, it's the fact that there's still so much we don't know about it. We don't know how long it's been in existence, where it hides, exactly how it kills the people it infects, or if certain people are immune. But there's also a lot we do know about the virus, as Joe Hansen explains in the latest episode of It's Okay To Be Smart.
When we say someone "has Ebola", they technically have what's known as 'Ebola virus disease', which is a severe infection with a whole bevy of side effects including abdominal pain, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, loss of appetite, joint paint, diarrhoea, bleeding from the gums, rash, and yes, even hiccups. A book that came out in 1994 perpetuated the myth that liquified organs and bleeding eyes are also typical side effects, but this doesn't really happen. In fact, bleeding of any kind is only seen in around half of the reported cases.
Ebola's ability to lie silently in wait, like a deadly 'viral ninja' is what makes it so worrisome, but how scared should we be? "To be completely honest, unless you live in a very specific part of West Africa, are travelling to a very specific part of West Africa, or you are a medical professional treating people who are currently infected with the Ebola virus, you're probably not going to get Ebola," says Hansen. So no more panicking!
Source: It's Okay To Be Smart