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ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser Discusses Ebola Cases, Treatment

(AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta)

(AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — The two American aid workers infected with Ebola were treated with an experimental drug.  It’s never been tested on humans before and was  only identified earlier this year as part of an ongoing research program backed by the U.S. government and military.

ABC40’S Dave Madsen spoke with ABC News Chief Health and Medical Expert Dr. Richard Besser about the the first two cases being treated on U.S. soil.

Dr. Besser believes it’s too early to say whether the experimental treatment saved their lives or slowed the disease’s progression enough to allow them to return to the United States for care.

RB: “It’s way too early to attribute it to that medication. I’m a little skeptical because the drug had never been used in humans and when it had been used in monkeys, it was only tested in animals who were not yet sick and so it’s hard for me to understand how it worked or would of worked so quickly in the setting of patients who are very ill.  Drugs to treat infections tend not to work that quickly.”

DM: “The case of the man tested for Ebola at New York’s Mt Sinai Hospital, I heard today that it’s unlikely that he has the virus. That said, it’s still disconcerting.”

RB: “Last week the CDC put out an alert, a health alert to doctors and hospitals across the country saying ask any patient who’s coming in with a fever if they’ve recently traveled. If they’ve traveled to the region that affected by this outbreak and they have symptoms that could be consistent with Ebola, isolate them and send samples for testing to the CDC.  And the fact that we’re hearing about these, this will be the 7th one today from around the country, it’s a good sign. It means that hospitals are paying attention.”

DM: “Is the fear of the Ebola virus more fear of the unknown than the actual threat itself?”

RB:” I think so. This is something you see whenever there’s a new disease, something that people are unfamiliar with. Ebola is a deadly infection but it’s something that is not as contagious as so many of the diseases we see and the precautions that are being taken in moving these patients are the appropriate ones for insuring that the community is protected.”

Despite public concern, including many angry emails and phone calls, officials are not worried about the Ebola virus spreading throughout the U.S.

The World Health Organization says Ebola is spread through contact with blood and other bodily fluids, and is not airborne. Ebola spreads in Africa when hospitals do not have infection control.

Ebola has killed at least 887 people in four West African countries in what’s considered one of the largest outbreaks ever.

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