RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- Concerns about the deadly Ebola virus were turned up a notch after it was revealed one of the latest American victims to die from the virus came close to traveling by plane to the United States.
The family of 40-year-old Patrick Sawyer said he collapsed when his plane, heading for the United States, made a quick stop in Laos, Nigeria. Sawyer was taken to a Nigerian hospital, where he died five days later.
Dr. David AuCoin is an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Nevada's School of Medicine. He said it is possible that the virus could reach the United States. "The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control think it's highly unlikely. I think it's unlikely, but I think it's a possibility."
The virus is not spread like the common cold or the flu, but through body fluids. Dr. AuCoin said many experts believe someone would be too sick to travel. "They need to have fever, body aches. They could be vomiting or have diarrhea, which would spread the virus, so it would be hard for a person to get on a plane because they would probably be in bed. They'd be up and around. They would be very, very sick."
But he acknowledges the Minnesota man demonstrates the threat. "The fellow who died while flying to Nigeria, he had symptoms on the plane, so it's a possibility the virus could reach beyond west Africa."
Dr. AuCoin believes the greatest threat to those in the United States would be to those who are traveling in the regions where the virus is still spreading. He also thinks it poses a threat to friends and loved ones of those travelers, and to care givers and health care professionals. "Ebola is always confused with other viral or bacterial infections, just because it is so rare."
Caregivers and health care professionals run the risk of being exposed to body fluids of an infected patient. He notes two American medical professionals are among those who have died from the virus. "We've seen where health care workers are getting sick," said Dr. AuCoin. "It's just hard to have complete PPE, or personal protection all the time."