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Ebola Experts Hope To Separate Myth From Reality At Seattle Event

Cynthia Goldsmith
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How much of Americans' attitudes about Ebola are based on science and evidence, and how much on politics and fear? That's the question experts will take up at an event Tuesday nightin Seattle.

Nurse Karin Huster returned from fighting Ebola in Liberiaon Oct. 3, and she will be heading back on Thursday. In the intervening month she has spent in Seattle, the country has wrestled with how to handle health workers returning from West Africa. They must now reenter through one of just five airports, and several states have imposed mandatory quarantines.

Huster, a former Harborview nurse, says that has added a whole new layer of stress to this deployment.

"Depending on what is going to happen in between Thursday and Christmas, I might not be able to come back home and see my kids and my husband. So it's a little weird and a little worrisome for me," Huster said.

Huster will share her perspective at a panel hosted by Washington Global Health Alliance and CodeMed. She'll be joined by state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist, Joe DiCarlo of Medical Teams International and University of Washington Professor Emerita Ann Marie Kimball.

They say they want to bring an objective point of view to questions such as how afraid we should be, how to keep ourselves safe and how to treat the health workers putting themselves at risk to contain the disease.

"The most important thing I want people to know is, the last thing I want to do ever is to infect other people," said Huster. "The first thing I will do as soon as I feel the smallest inkling of fever or not feeling good, is I will call Harborview and say, 'Listen, I don't feel so good."'

The panelists will also be upfront about what is still uncertain, and how to act prudently given all that we still don't know about Ebola, said Washington Global Health Alliance executive director Lisa Cohen.

The event "Contagion — Ebola Fact and Fiction" takes place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.