MUSC doctor discusses unlikely threat of Ebola outbreak in US

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Two American missionaries who contracted the Ebola virus in Africa are being taken to Emory Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.

The decision is being met with strong criticism, and has many asking if an outbreak is possible in the United States.

An expert at Medical University Hospital says the Ebola virus should not be taken lightly, but people in the U.S. have a greater chance of catching the common cold.

It's one of the worst outbreaks in history, killing more than 700 people, but Dr. Preston Church says Ebola is not easily spread.

"Someone gets on an airplane and they have Ebola. If they have no symptoms it's not going anywhere; it's riding with them. If they are symptomatic and early in their symptoms, then a sneeze would not wipe out the plane or even in the person in the seat next to them," Church said.

Ebola is only transmitted through bodily fluids. Church says that's why healthcare workers and family members of the infected are typically the ones who end up contracting the deadly virus.

"They're the ones who are dealing with the patient who is really infectious. The body fluids, the blood, the vomit, that's where the issue comes in," he said.

Church says one of the major factors that make an American outbreak highly unlikely is the American medical community's quick response to quarantine and treat patients.

"In west Africa, you're lucky if you can get some IV fluids and acetaminophen," Church said.

But even with those factors, people still have a hard time supporting the decision to bring two infected Americans back into the country for treatment.

"I'm on the fence about it," said Jazmyne Okalo. "I feel for them because they are Americans, so we do need to treat them."

"It might be scary at first, but there are so many things we could do here. So why not? Why not help?" asked Victoria Pent.

There is currently no vaccine for the Ebola virus, but one is being worked on with some promising results. If all goes as planned, it could be released as early as next year.

Doctors at Emory University Hospital on Friday discussed the two incoming patients.

They reassured the public that Ebola is not a mystical pathogen, but a virus spread in a way everyone is used to. The doctors said they will continue to take extra precautions to keep the patients isolated.

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