Historical, medical perspectives voiced at Ebola forum

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OSAGE BEACH - Columbia College -Lake of the Ozarks hosted a forum about Ebola Saturday morning to educate local people about the virus from a variety of perspectives.

The forum focused on the Ebola virus, its history and the preparedness plans in place by local health officials. History Professor Jim Pasley, Dr. Clemens Haggerty, family physician and Columbia College faculty member, Pat Olson, lead bacteriologist from Missouri Department of Health served as panelists.

Haggerty said he hoped those who attended Saturday morning's session learned that Ebola can be contained and it can be prevented by quarantine. He reminded attendees the virus is contracted by direct contract.

"It's not something we can breathe through the air like the influenza virus," he said. "It's a virus that is from direct contact with an infected patient."

He said direct contact includes blood and other bodily fluids.

"I have confidence in the CDC," he said. "....and the local physicians, and local health care people at Lake Regional Hospital are on top of things and watching closely to see that there's no patients being missed that might have Ebola."

The forum was part of a ‘Coffee at the College' series. The series brings together local experts and Columbia College staff to educate and give context to current events. The Ebola presentation was the third forum held.

Haggerty said while health care professionals in the area need to be prepared if a case arose in the area there is little need for Missourians to worry about the virus.

"I'd tell them if they haven't been in contact with persons with symptoms and if they haven't traveled to or from western Africa, where it is of high concentration than I think they can rest assured that they're going to be okay."

In addition to explaining the symptoms, the panel also weighed in on the epidemic in relation to other historically significant pandemics. Professor Pasley said it is important to look at other pandemics and the world's reaction to them to understand the current situation. He used the Spanish Flu as an example.

"We thought this would be great way to grasp the concept of what would happen if we found ourselves in a modern day pandemic," he said.

However, Pasley confirmed there is a stark difference between the two viruses.

"The Spanish Flu was carried in the air so coughing on someone, just being in contact with the air around people coming together in large numbers,"

This is a drastic difference between the Spanish Flu form the early 1900s to Ebola concerns of 2014.

"The fact that it (the Spanish Flu) was airborne, it spread almost instantaneously in 1918. I guess if there's a fortunate side to this it is that it's not being carried in the air."

Pasley said he hopes the Columbia College staff can educate the community on current affairs. He said the college felt it would be a service to educate the community on the issue from a variety of perspectives.

The next forum will be held February.