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Physicians Talk Distinguishing Ebola from the Flu

Three doctors discuss symptoms and future remedies

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Norwalk, CT | Added on October 22, 2014 At 05:55 PM

Three Norwalk physicians spoke on distinguishing Ebola from the common flu at a round table discussion Tuesday evening with News12 Health Anchor Gillian Neff at the Center for Advanced Pediatrics in Norwalk.

Physicians say they're changing gears. With the common cold, flu and allergy season, along with recent the spread of Enterovirus and Ebola, they say the community should aware be of each condition to identify its symptoms. Currently there have been three reported cases of Ebola in the U.S. with only one death.  

"I think we have to put everything into perspective in terms of what's common and what's not," said Dr. Robert Weiss of CT Center for Advanced ENT Care. "Ebola is still exceedingly uncommon and we have to be aware of it but the flu is very common and it kills a lot more people each year then Ebola ever will." 

"It is not an airborne acquired illness, in the lab it is, but in real life there really isn't enough documentation to say it's airborne," said Dr. Jeanne Marconi, pediatrician at the Center for Advanced Pediatrics. "The virion particles really become active when the patient becomes symptomatic with severe protractive vomiting and diarrhea. So that's why the health care workers who are in contact with these sick people is when the contagiousness is the highest in those patients and that goes for the same in Africa that people live in such close quarters and they don't have the supported care, so families, friends, are exposed to direct contact and it can be any body secretions, so saliva, eye drainage, nose drainage, stool, urine, sweat. Every single body fluid can actually express these variants which are the contagious parts of Ebola." 

Ebola was identified in the early 1970s. The virus was originally found in fruit bats which spread the disease to other animals like monkeys and swine, and ended up reaching the human population. Doctors say unlike the flu, where symptoms onset in about a day or two, Ebola symptoms can take as long as two weeks to emerge, and during its incubation period, Ebola is not contagious. 

"It's really contagious only after symptoms occur and that's actually very true and the reason for that is it has to do with the amount of virus in one person's body. When symptoms occur, for the first day or two, there's actually not a lot of virus circulating. It actually starts to peak after day 2, so you're talking about day 3, 4 and 5 and probably somewhere around day 5, 6 and 7, it's at its maximum," said Dr. Michael Schwartz of Soundview Medical Associates. 

Physicians say although there is currently no cure for Ebola, they hope in the near future to see a new class of medications and vaccines specifically to impair the virus's ability to penetrate the cells and replicate.  

"There are probably patients out there with natural immunity as there is with any kind of virus," said Schwartz. "So if we can get over there and just help these people in West Africa and have better care, identify these patients and try to find out why they didn't get sick and what makes them unique, that can lead to a whole other class of medications being produced." 


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