Infectious Diseases Put World and D.C. on Alert

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Dr. Kent Brantly

The Ebola crisis in West Africa has put the world on high alert, forced some leaders to remain in their home nations to miss the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and caused the postponement of “The Future of Development and Business in Africa, ” a forum to be held today at Georgetown University.

Like some other universities, Georgetown University has taken action against the spread of the virus. Joseph Yohe, associate vice president for risk management, and James Welsh, assistant vice president for student health, announced Friday that there will be a temporary travel moratorium on all university-sponsored trips and programs to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, three West African nations in the midst of battling what is considered to be the worst Ebola outbreak in history. This moratorium follows U.S. health officials’ travel warning about the dangers of the virus, which kills 90 percent of those infected. As for when the travel moratorium will conclude, Yohe and Welsh intend to comply with the CDC’s guidelines.

The Gaston Hall event was to feature Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who delivered the university’s School of Foreign Service commencement speech in 2010. The forum’s focus was to discuss private investment in Africa while looking at its role in the region’s health, education, poverty and emerging business opportunities, as well as benefits of receiving support by the United States’ government and other international organizations. The event has yet to be rescheduled.

Sirleaf, along with 50 other African leaders, was invited to attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in D.C., taking place Monday to Wednesday this week. To contain the deadly virus that has already killed over 700 people, Sirleaf and leaders of Guinea and Sierra Leone have cancelled their attendance to the summit.

Although there have been no known Ebola outbreaks in the United States to date, residents should still take caution when coming into contact with those exhibiting flu-like symptoms. A Washington, D.C.-area man was hospitalized last month after contracting a flesh-eating bacterial disease. Joe Wood of Stafford, Va., was swimming in the Potomac River when a scratch on his leg became infected with an aggressive bacteria that feeds on flesh – vibrio vulnificus. Wood was admitted to Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg where he received skin graft surgery the following week.

This news comes just days after a 66-year-old Maryland man was treated for the same strain, characterized by fever, chills, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms. In Maryland, the number of vibrio cases reached a 10-year high last year, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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