The last few weeks the media has been focused on Ebola. Many are writing or talking about this virus. I will do the same, but add a new perspective. President Obama, Pope Francis, and the New England Journal of Medicine have all given input to this potential worldwide problem. They want to call on the international community to help and work together. Now, word comes of a death in Texas, two nurses with the virus, and a possible contaminated airplane. Ebola seems to be everywhere.
A healthcare worker in Spain has the virus. Word is out. The virus has been transmitted to Senegal and Nigeria. The media is buzzing, creating an element of fear. A recent headline from the Drudge Report illustrates this, “Up to 100 at risk of Ebola exposure in TX- case investigations in Utah- scare in Hawaii- U.N. fears, could go airborne….” Let’s be concerned and not fearful. As you will see, fear could make the situation worse.
What is Ebola? Ebola is a virus that has been around for a while. Dr. Pete Piot, the co-discoverer of the virus, thought the reservoir is the fruit bat of Africa. Human to human transmission, often initiated by a single introduction from a wildlife reservoir or another end host can lead to outbreaks, there are different strains of the virus. Some strains are more dangerous than others. West African countries like Guinea, Sierra Leonne, and Liberia have been reporting new cases. As of September 2014, there have been over 5000 cases reported and over 2600 deaths. The numbers are increasing.
Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes visible hemorrhaging. We are still learning about the virus. This virus is thought to be highly infectious, but not too contagious. In short, the virus does not spread so easily. It moves via body fluids, but a little virus in a body can be lethal. In earlier epidemics, the Zaire type of Ebola virus was 70% fatal. Previously the virus was found in rural areas. Now urban areas are being infected. A case in Texas has brought the virus to North America. The victim has passed. Supposedly, he cared for a pregnant woman who died from the virus and then, came to Texas.
Pope Francis has called for international assistance. Congress, in the States, has released war funds. Tekemira Pharmaceuticals is working on a vaccine, TKM-Ebola. The New England Journal of Medicine reports a potential of 21,000 cases by early November. Remember the virus is spread by body fluids from infected people, animals and contaminated objects. Symptoms occur 8-10 days after exposure. President Obama is calling for new procedures to limit the risk. What can we as individuals do? What should we be concerned about? Is there other evidenced -based places to turn for help?
In general, I want to remind you how to avoid viruses and strengthen the immune system. First and foremost is hygiene. Wash your hands. Cover your mouth. Avoid sick people and possible contaminated objects. Be alert. If someone is sick, stay away and encourage isolation. If we can quarantine the virus, previous epidemics have run their course. In West Africa, contaminants are not taken care of quickly at times, thus increasing the likelihood of spreading the virus.
To strengthen your immune system, stay away form processed foods, especially processed sugar. Exercise, drink water, get rest, and take probiotics. Eat your fresh veggies and not animals that may contain pathogens. In this media frenzy, also avoid fear, as fear and anxiety hurt the ability of the body to fight infection.
Research by Dusk, published in PLOS One July 2008, has demonstrated that stress activates genes adversely. Some genes are activated causing an unhealthy immune response. The bottom line is stress harms the immune system. If the immune system is compromised, infections including viruses pose a greater risk. Fear is definitely a stressor. Some are fearful of the Ebola virus. This could ultimately harm the immune system. Processed sugar, lack of rest, uncontrolled diabetes, and certain medications are a few ways the immune system can be compromised. We can now add fear to the list.
A final way to improve the immune system is a Biblical prescription from Philippians 4:6. “Be anxious about nothing”. In the verse, we are asked to pray and tell God what you need while thanking Him for all He has done. In verse 7, when we do this we will experience God’s peace, rest. We explained earlier the science behind stress and fear compromising the immune system. I am sure this verse is a way to help the immune system and our entire body. Newberg, from the University of Pennsylvania has demonstrated how worship decreases the stress chemistry. I want to ask all those who are fearful of the Ebola virus to also add prayer, worship, and thanks to the regimen. This is something we can do right now to help our family and world. I want us to call on more than international assistance once again.