An outbreak of Ebola virus has received international attention, and rightly so says a Washington University professor, but he says Missourians are largely safe.

The Ebola virus, (photo courtesy of the CDC)

The Ebola virus, (photo courtesy of the CDC)

More than 7,000 people are estimated to have Ebola in West Africa, and some sources say the actual number is likely much, much higher.

One infected person has entered the United States, in Texas, and Washington University Assistant Professor of Medicine Steven Lawrence says it might not stop there.

“There probably will be more before this outbreak in West Africa is contained,” says Lawrence, “but from an overall perspective of public health there is very minimal risk, and that includes residents in the state of Missouri and really throughout most of the country.”

The only way to contract Ebola is through contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids.

“That’s not going to happen in the United States,” says Lawrence, except in limited cases such as people who are around those who have come back from West Africa.

Even then, he says, the nation’s medical infrastructure is such that an outbreak is unlikely for two key reasons.

“Number one; identifying cases or people who are sick, and then two; identifying contacts of those that could become sick,” says Lawrence. “When those are done very effectively, and then thirdly, when people who are sick are taken care of in an environment with the appropriate protective equipment, transmission for this disease can be stopped.”

Lawrence says it is “almost impossible to fathom” an uncontained outbreak of Ebola occurring in the United States.