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'U' Professor: Ebola Outbreak Could Be Largest Ever

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A nationally renowned bio-security expert says the recent cases of the Ebola virus may turn into the largest outbreak we've ever seen.

Dr. Michael Ostherholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, as well as a professor at the University of Minnesota.

He teamed up with two Macalester College staff members to address the concerns many of us have about the spread of the Ebola outbreak, and the impact it could have on Minnesota.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the current number believed affected by the outbreak could top one million by early next year.

The Ebola virus could make its way to countries outside of Africa because someone who has it might travel overseas.

"The Ebola virus right now would get to the U.S. on a plane. It would be someone who was infected in West Africa and without knowing they were infected, get on a plane, travel to somewhere else in the world," Ostherholm said.

Osterholm says he does not believe Minnesota is more likely to have an Ebola case just because of the large Liberian community here.

"The fact that we have the West African community here surely means we have to be aware of it. But we could have people traveling from anywhere in the world with this virus. The time period from when you become infected and the actual time you get sick, may be as long as three weeks," he said.

He says the United States has done more than any other country to try to help stop the spread of Ebola.

But it may not be enough.

"One of the things we realized today is that with this virus moving at virus speed, even our rapid deployment of assets and resources is not keeping up with the virus itself," he said.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids like blood, urine, saliva and sweat.

Lack of enough protective gear, like gowns, gloves and face masks, has fueled its spread among family members in West Africa taking care of infected loved ones.

"How will we contain this virus? I think ultimately it's going to be vaccine, but that's many months off. So, get ready to deal with this for many more months to come," Ostherholm said.

Many have said the response from the United States was too little and too late.

The doctor described the aid from all countries to be moving at bureaucracy speeds.

He believes there's a high likelihood Ebola will spread to other cities in West Africa, and beyond to other parts of the continent.


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