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UNG biology professor discusses Ebola facts with students
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Ebola rumors and confusion are nearly as out of control as the virus itself, according to a professor at the University of North Georgia.

Dr. Davison Sangweme, assistant professor of biology and parasitology at the university, spoke to more than 100 students Monday at the Gainesville campus.

“My aim in talking about this is basically to shed some light on what is known about the virus and the disease,” Sangweme said, “and to kind of get rid of the ignorance and misinformation that breed fear among us.”
The Ebola virus is believed to have first occurred in remote villages in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sangweme said. One of these first villages was near the Ebola River, which gave the virus its name.
These first outbreaks occurred in 1976. They were limited to these remote villages, but the recent outbreak differs in its spread to urban areas.

Ebola rumors and confusion are nearly as out of control as the virus itself, according to a professor at the University of North Georgia.

Dr. Davison Sangweme, assistant professor of biology and parasitology at the university, spoke to more than 100 students Monday at the Gainesville campus.

“My aim in talking about this is basically to shed some light on what is known about the virus and the disease,” Sangweme said, “and to kind of get rid of the ignorance and misinformation that breed fear among us.”
The Ebola virus is believed to have first occurred in remote villages in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sangweme said. One of these first villages was near the Ebola River, which gave the virus its name.
These first outbreaks occurred in 1976. They were limited to these remote villages, but the recent outbreak differs in its spread to urban areas.

Sangweme said the virus is made more difficult to contain because of the small number of hospitals or medical centers in the region.

The virus is not airborne or waterborne and only passes through bodily fluids through the mucus membrane, a cut or an abrasion, he said. The virus seeks three specific types of host cells and is only contagious when the infected are showing symptoms.

“Most people will basically be showing symptoms within a week to 10 days,” Sangweme said. “Sometimes it’s best to wait another 11 days to make certain you are not infected. If you do not develop the symptoms in that period, you do not have Ebola.”

Sangweme also said alcohol-based disinfectants and bleach can deactivate the virus, and thus far, there is no evidence that pets carrying the virus can be a threat to humans, despite recent contrary reports.

The discussion was hosted by the Biology Club at the university.

Dr. Jennifer Mook, adviser to the club, said the purpose of the discussion is to educate and minimize fear.

“What people don’t understand, they start to get a little bit hysterical about,” Mook said. “... But there’s also a lot of compassion out there for our fellow Americans and humans across the planet that are afflicted with this disease.”

The discussion comes days after Gov. Nathan Deal announced he will sign an executive order to create an Ebola response team. Deal said the team will assess the current procedures and make recommendations to minimize the potential impact of the virus in Georgia.

University of North Georgia President Dr. Bonita Jacobs announced Monday in an email to faculty and staff that the university will also create an Ebola Response Committee.

In the email, Jacobs said the probability of the virus directly affecting the university is low, but the committee will ensure the risk is minimized and a response plan is in place.

“This group’s efforts will focus on education, personnel training, awareness, preparedness, and coordination with external agencies as needed,” she said.

Jacobs added the committee will be chaired by Dr. Billy Wells, vice president of executive affairs, and will include representatives from multiple entities on campus.

Sangweme said “knowledge is power” in cases like these and educating the public is an important part of the response.

“If you don’t remember anything else about what I said, just remember this,” Sangweme said. “Don’t panic, be informed and avoid rumor- and fear-mongering.”