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Bronx West African Community Reacts to Ebola Outbreak

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TWC News: Bronx West African Community Reacts to Ebola Outbreak
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Since February nearly 700 people in West African countries have died from the Ebola Virus. Although New York is thousands of miles away from the outbreak, the issue hits home for a group in the Bronx. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

The stories of hundreds of Africans dying from Ebola concern Bronx community leader Bola Omotosho, who traveled to his native Nigeria recently.

"Nigeria is one of the most populous—actually the most populous black country in the world. That is scary," Omotosho says.

He's a member of the Bronx African Advisory Council, mostly made up of West Africans.

Its chair, Charles Cooper, is from Liberia, a country trying desperately to contain the spread of the virus. He says early symptoms of the virus mimic less harmful illnesses, leaving people scared and confused, and some avoiding health care facilities.

"They don't know whether you get it from someone sneezing on you to someone coughing on you to a blood transfusion," Cooper says.

Doctor Bruce Hirsch, of North Shore University Hospital, says education is the best defense.

He says fruit bats and monkeys are typical carriers, and in some cases, humans eat or come in contact with infected animals.

He adds it's unlikely that a sneeze or cough will transmit the disease. It can be contracted by coming into contact with bodily fluid of an infected person, especially in the late stages of the disease, characterized by vomiting, diarrhea and massive internal bleeding.

"The person begins to go into organ failure and begin to consume their ability to clot and start bleeding, and we see blood on the skin, blood inside the GI tract. The blood and now the sweat have high amounts of the virus in it," Hirsch says.

Those fluids can also be transmitted when washing the body of an infected person during a traditional African burial.

"This virus is capable of finding the microscopic cracks inside of our body and being able to penetrate," Hirsch says.

As for Ebola spreading to the States, Doctor Hirsch says that, too, is unlikely.

"It causes death too quickly to be able to spread surreptitiously through our population," Hirsch says.

That's information the doctor hopes allays fears here and helps save lives across the world.

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