Health & Fitness


Odds of Catching Ebola on the Subway and Other Handy Facts

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ebola continues to dominate the news with the latest diagnosis of a patient in New York City, leaving many Americans on edge, especially New Yorkers, who awoke this morning to learn that the patient had take three subway lines before he was diagnosed.

So, what are the odds of catching Ebola on the subway? Here are a few Ebola facts to calm your nerves:

"There are fundamental things we do know about Ebola and it's those things that can make most people in America rest very well at night that they don't have a risk of contracting this disease,” said ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser during a recent ABC News Ebola town hall event.

What If I Stand Next to Someone with Ebola on a Subway?

You probably won't catch it in that situation, Dr. Jay Varma, New York City’s deputy commissioner for disease control, said during the town hall event.

"Casual contact like you would have somebody pass you on the bus or on the subway, I’m not worried about it for myself and I’m not worried about it for my wife and kids," Varma said.

When Does Ebola Become Contagious?

Ebola is contagious when someone is symptomatic, Besser said. A fever is the first symptom of Ebola, which means the virus is beginning to multiply in the patient’s blood when a fever sets in.

As an Ebola patient gets sicker and sicker, the amount of virus in his or her blood multiplies, making them even more contagious.

How Is Ebola Spread?

Ebola is spread through close contact with an infected person, and it’s not airborne, Besser said.

“We also know from the studies in Africa that it’s a hard disease to get,” Besser said. “If this disease was spread through the air or was spread easily -- that you could get it from someone you’re standing next to in the market or sitting next to on a plane -- this outbreak would be far larger than it is today.”

People who contract Ebola usually do so because they've cared for someone who was infected in a hospital setting or at home, Besser noted, or they've touched the body of a person who died of Ebola.

Can It Become Airborne?

“The majority of scientists say that while it’s possible, it’s highly unlikely,” Besser said, explaining that the virus would have to mutate significantly.

What If Someone with Ebola Sneezes on Me?

Sneezing is not a symptom of Ebola, Besser said. Neither is coughing until the very late stages of the disease, when the person is clearly sick and near death. On top of that, the disease is not airborne.

How Long Can the Virus Survive on Surfaces Like Tabletops and Doorknobs?

“This is one of these areas where we don’t really know enough,” Varma said. “We do know that these viruses can survive on surfaces for a few hours.”

He said how long it can survive depends on the surface and the environment.

Should You Take Precautions Before Taking Public Transportation?

“We think this is not a disease that you can get from simply being next to somebody,” Varma said. “Absolutely if somebody vomits on you or you get their body fluids on you, of course you can be at risk, but we think that airplane travel, traveling on subways -- all of that -- is the type of contact where this is not a disease that's transmitted.”

He said he’s more worried about getting the flu on public transportation than Ebola.

Can I Get Ebola From Someone’s Sweat?

There’s very little data on how much of the virus is in a sick person’s sweat, Besser said.

He added that carrying a person who is sick with Ebola can be a “risky situation.” He said one man who had Ebola on a plane didn't spread it to fellow passengers but inadvertently gave it to the people who helped carry him once he got off the plane.

“Touching the skin -- whether he had other body fluids or sweat on his skin at that point -- was a risk,” Besser said.

Can Ebola Be Spread Through the Water Supply?

Ebola is not a water-borne disease, according to researchers at the Water Research Foundation. Therefore, it cannot spread through the water supply.

“Once in water, the host cell will take in water in an attempt to equalize the osmotic pressure, causing the cell to swell and burst, thus killing the virus,” the foundation noted in a statement.

Bodily fluids flushed by an infected person would not contaminate the water supply, the statement went on to say, because the virus is so fragile. Once separated from its host it is neutralized within minutes.

Can Ebola Be Used as a Terrorist Weapon?

Ebola could theoretically be used by terrorists but it is unlikely, Varma said.

Studies suggest that Ebola could in theory be delivered in mist form by spraying it out of an aerosol can. However, since the virus is not known to take an airborne route, this would likely be ineffective.

It is also possible that a terrorist willing to be infected with the virus could walk among the general population. However, since the virus has a long incubation period and is not highly contagious until the later stages of the disease, most experts say this would be impractical.

Can Ebola Be Spread by Mosquitoes?

Neither mosquitoes nor rats can spread Ebola, Besser said. "Not all viruses are adapted to survival and transmission through every vector," he noted.

Only mammals such as humans, bats, monkeys and apes have shown the ability to spread and become infected with the Ebola virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other studies have shown that dogs and pigs can be infected with the virus but they don't show symptoms and there are no known cases of these animals passing the virus along to humans.

Is There a Vaccine Coming?

There are two vaccines being tested in clinical trials now, Besser said.

“There’s a lot of efforts underway to try and move a vaccine forward but vaccine development takes a long time,” he said, adding that one of the companies working on one has said it won’t know whether it works until 2015.

Even if it does work, it will take more time to manufacture.

What About Other Drugs?

Ebola patients in the United States are receiving experimental drugs, but it’s not yet clear whether they've helped, hurt or made no difference in those patients’ outcomes, Besser said.

Why Don't We Just Close Our Borders to West Africa?

Keeping people from leaving the Ebola-affected countries would be a "major mistake," Besser said, noting that he saw aid workers, journalists and family members aboard his plane on his two trips to Liberia in the last few months, and that letting them in and out is important.

"You want to make sure that people who leave that area are being monitored and doing it safely," he said. "You want to encourage people to go there who have expertise and can help these governments, these health workers, control this disease. That will save lives there and will also improve the health and protection of Americans right here."

Varma said the biggest concern in America should be containing the outbreak in Africa. Until that happens, he said "we will always be at risk."

"You can't just wrap a wall around these countries and not expect people to get out," he said.

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Americans Losing Faith in Medical Profession

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- What’s up, Doc? Certainly not Americans’ trust in physicians, according to an analysis by the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Co-author Robert Blendon says that faith in doctors has eroded significantly over the past half-century. In 1966, three out of four people had “great confidence in the leaders of the medical profession.”

As of 2012, just 34 percent expressing a great deal of confidence in physicians.

In a separate poll that covered 29 nations, respondents were asked if they agreed with the statement: “Doctors in your country can be trusted.” The U.S. ranked 24th with 58 percent agreeing.

So what happened over time to make Americans less trusting of those they trust with their care? For one thing, many believe doctors are self-serving, compared to other countries where medical professionals advocate for public health.

There’s also the problem of too many major physician specialty groups, which fail to call for ways to benefit patients, such as reducing health care costs.

However, the news for doctors is not all gloom and doom. Blendon says that the U.S. is third behind just Switzerland and Denmark when it comes to people being satisfied with their own personal physicians. That means that trust is far higher on an individual scale rather than a collective basis.

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The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is…Everything?

iStock/Thinkstock(ORANGE, Calif.) -- Land of the free…home of the brave? Not, if a new survey from Chapman University can be believed.

Researchers conducted a poll of 1,500 people on what Americans are scared of and judging by the results, our fears are many and cover a lot of ground.

For instance, when asked what they feared most, Americans listed in this order:

  1. Walking alone at night
  2. Becoming the victim of identity theft
  3. Safety on the Internet
  4. Being the victim of a mass/random shooting
  5. Public speaking

Perhaps not as intense as genuine fear, next came things people are most worried or concerned about:

  1. Having identity stolen on the Internet
  2. Corporate surveillance of Internet activity
  3. Running out of money in the future
  4. Government surveillance of Internet activity
  5. Becoming ill/sick

Then, of course, there are things completely out of our hands, such as natural disasters. The most feared are:

  1. Tornado/hurricane
  2. Earthquakes
  3. Floods
  4. Pandemic or major epidemic
  5. Power outage

Meanwhile, everyone’s worried about crime and a majority believe that things have grown worse over the last 20 years even though FBI and police statistics show most crime categories have declined over the past two decades.

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Kids Will Never Turn Their Noses Up at a Treat

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BRISBANE, Australia) -- Moms know how it goes: no matter if their toddler has a belly full of food, they’ll still be able to stuff their face with a treat if one’s at hand.

Nutrition researcher Holly Harris at Queensland University of Technology in Australia says this seems to be the case with all children, all the way down to age three.

Harris conducted a study with 37 kids ages three and four and every single one of them went for a high-energy treat even though they weren’t hungry. In fact, eight of ten admitted to being really full just 15 minutes prior to getting the snack.

Meanwhile, boys and girls had different reasons for eating a treat in the absence of hunger. Apparently, when boys are pressured by moms to finish their meals, it seems to fuel their desire to have a snack when they don’t really crave one. Meanwhile, the same kind of pressure did not compel girls to continue eating although they couldn’t resist having a treat either.

According to Harris, people are born with the innate ability to control their feeding practices. However, “as we grow older, we become increasingly aware of the abundance and rewarding value of food, and in turn, our ability to respond appropriately to our appetite may diminish,” she added.

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Ebola in America: Timeline of the Deadly Virus

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ebola, a virus that is affecting people thousands of miles away in West Africa, is now in America with two transmissions on U.S. soil confirmed in Dallas and officials calling additional transmissions to health workers a "very real possibility."

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has sickened at least 9,936 people since March, killing at least 4,877 of them -- making it the worst outbreak of the virus in history, according to the World Health Organization.

Find out how the virus first arrived in the United States -- via U.S. missionaries flown here for treatment this summer -- and then how Ebola was unwittingly imported via Thomas Eric Duncan, who flew from Liberia to Texas with the virus and later died in Dallas.

Oct. 23, 2014: Dr. Craig Allen Spencer is diagnosed with Ebola the same day he went into isolation at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. According to the hospital, he had a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms when he was transferred to Bellevue. Spencer recently returned from Guinea, where he was working for Doctors Without Borders. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference that Spencer only had symptoms for "a very brief period of time" and only had contact with "very few" people. He described the patient as "in good shape."

Oct. 19, 2014: The unnamed American Ebola patient is discharged from Emory University Hospital, where the patient had been undergoing care since Sept. 9. This patient had been working for the WHO in Sierra Leone and chose to remain anonymous. "Given the national focus on Ebola, particularly with the diagnosis in two health care workers, I want to share the news that I am recovering from this disease, and that I anticipate being discharged very soon, free from the Ebola virus and able to return safely to my family and to my community," the unnamed patient said in a statement released Oct. 15.

Oct. 17, 2014: Officials announce that a Dallas health worker who handled clinical specimens from Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola on American soil, is quarantined aboard a Carnival cruise ship amid concerns the worker may have been exposed to the Ebola virus.

Oct. 16, 2014: Dallas nurse Nina Pham, 26, the first person to contract Ebola in the United States, is flown from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas to the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Pham treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she works.

Oct. 15, 2014: Amber Vinson, 29, another nurse who treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, is diagnosed with Ebola shortly after midnight and flown to Emory University Hospital that evening.

Oct. 14, 2014: Vinson is taken to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas with a fever.

Oct. 13, 2014: Vinson flies from Cleveland to Dallas on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143, arriving at 8:16 p.m. She has no symptoms, but her temperature was 99.5 degrees that morning, according to health officials. She notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before boarding, and no one told her not to fly.

Oct. 12, 2014: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas says that Pham has tested positive for Ebola.

Oct. 12, 2014: An unidentified Dallas health worker who handled Duncan's clinical specimens at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital boards a cruise ship. The CDC notified the worker about active monitoring after the cruise ship left the country, according to a government statement.

Oct. 10, 2014: Vinson takes a commercial flight from Dallas to Cleveland, Ohio, to prepare for her upcoming wedding.

Oct. 9, 2014: A Dallas County sheriff's deputy who reported symptoms associated with Ebola after serving a quarantine order on the apartment where Duncan had been staying tests negative for the virus.

Oct. 8, 2014: Duncan dies at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Oct. 6, 2014: Ashoka Mukpo, 33, a freelance American cameraman who contracted Ebola in West Africa, arrives at Nebraska Medical Center for Ebola treatment.

Oct. 6, 2014: Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, who contracted Ebola while treating patients in a Liberian maternity ward a month earlier, is released from his second hospitalization since returning to the United States. He had been hospitalized at UMass Memorial Medical Center on Worcester, Massachusetts, with what doctors initially thought was an Ebola relapse but was soon diagnosed as a respiratory infection.

Oct. 5, 2014: Sacra is hospitalized in Massachusetts with what doctors fear is an Ebola relapse. They isolate him out of what they said was an abundance of caution.

Oct. 2, 2014: Mukpo is diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia. He worked for Vice News, NBC News and other outlets.

Sept. 30, 2014: The CDC confirms that a patient who would later be identified as Duncan has been diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil.

Sept. 28, 2014: Duncan returns to the hospital in an ambulance and is isolated.

Sept. 26, 2014: Duncan goes to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas with a fever and tells a nurse he has been to Liberia. But he is sent home with antibiotics and Tylenol.

Sept. 25, 2014: Sacra is deemed virus-free and released from Nebraska Medical Center, where he had spent weeks in an isolation ward recovering from Ebola.

Sept. 20, 2014: Duncan arrives in the United States from Liberia to visit family.

Sept. 9, 2014: An unnamed American Ebola patient arrives at Emory University Hospital for treatment. This patient had been working for the WHO in Sierra Leone.

Sept. 5, 2014: Sacra arrives at Nebraska Medical Center for treatment. He eventually gets a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, the American missionary who survived his bout with Ebola.

Sept. 3, 2014: Sacra was diagnosed with Ebola even though he was treating patients in the maternity ward of the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, not Ebola patients.

Aug. 21, 2014: Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, is discharged from Emory University Hospital, where he was undergoing treatment for Ebola after contracting it in Africa. In a news conference, he hugs several members of the hospital staff.

Aug. 19, 2014: Missionary Nancy Writebol, 59, is quietly discharged from Emory University Hospital, where she was undergoing treatment for Ebola. She also contracted the virus doing aid work in Liberia.

Aug. 5, 2014: Writebol is flown from Liberia to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, for Ebola treatment in its isolation ward.

Aug. 2, 2014: Brantly is flown from Liberia to Emory for treatment. He surprises everyone by walking out of the ambulance into the hospital in his protective suit.

July 31, 2013: In Liberia, Brantly gets the first dose of an experimental drug called ZMapp, though it was unnamed at the time. Though doctors initially thought there was only enough for one person, Writebol was administered the drug as well.

July 27, 2014: Missionary groups report that two Americans are sickened with Ebola while helping patients in Monrovia, Liberia. Brantly and Writebol were working for aid groups Samaritan's Purse and SIM, respectively. Brantly later told reporters he held patients' hands as they were dying.

March 19, 2014: What would become the largest Ebola outbreak in history begins in March 2014 with 23 deaths from what is then called a "mystery" hemorrhagic fever.

1976: Ebola is first discovered in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Ebola River in 1976. Thirty-two Ebola outbreaks would follow, bringing the total number of cases before this outbreak to 2,361, including 1,438 deaths, according to the WHO.

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Ohio College Gives Terminally Ill Lauren Hill Chance to Fulfill Her Basketball Dream

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Ohio student whose last wish is to play in a college basketball game will see her dream come true in front of thousands of fans after the NCAA agreed to move up her team’s season opener so she would be well enough to play.

Lauren Hill, 19, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable brain condition, in November 2013, not long after she committed to playing college basketball at Cincinnati’s Mount St. Joseph’s University on her 18th birthday.

Last month, Hill, who was recruited as a local high school standout, got the news that her brain tumor had grown and she had only months to live.

After the diagnosis, Hill kept playing basketball, joining her Mount St. Joseph teammates for practices.

“She wanted to be a part of the team and wanted to do as much as she could,” Dan Benjamin, Mount St. Joe’s girls’ basketball coach, told ABC News. “When she came to the Mount, she told her players, ‘You guys have to be committed. You have to play hard. Just like I have to play hard,’” Benjamin said.

When Benjamin learned of the progression of Hill's tumor, he mentioned to an NCAA official and the coach of the team Mount St. Joe’s was scheduled to open their season against -- Hiram College -- that he was going to seek a waiver to move the game to an earlier date.

“By the time I got into my office that Monday morning, I not only had an email from the NCAA but a message saying, ‘Just send us the medical documents,’” Benjamin said. “They have moved fast and it’s been remarkable.”

Instead of a Nov. 15 face-off, Hill and her teammates will now play Hiram Nov. 2 at Xavier University's 10,000-seat Cintas Center.

“We typically only get 100 or 200 people per game so they’re excited to play in front of so many people,” Benjamin said of his team. “They’re more excited to help Lauren finish her mission.”

A big part of the mission for Hill, who could not be reached for comment Thursday by ABC News, has been to help raise awareness for DIPG, which, according to Benjamin, typically strikes children.

“Lauren took this upon herself to say, ‘There’s no one that can tell the story because these kids can’t talk about it,’” Benjamin said. “She said, ‘I can be the spokesperson.’”

Hill and her teammates created T-shirts to sell as a fundraiser. Proceeds from the T-shirts as well as tickets to the Nov. 2 game will go to The Cure Starts Now Foundation and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Despite all the attention Hill’s story has received – including a visit from Cincinatti Bengals player Devon Stills, whose daughter is battling pediatric cancer – her coach says she is focused on the game.

“She wants to hear the squeakiness of her tennis shoes on the floor. She wants to hear the dribbling of the ball and the roar of the crowd,” Benjamin said. “That’s all she wants.”

“She’s taught me, don’t ever give up,” he said. “There’s no reason to not roll out of bed with a smile on our face like she does.”

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