Ebola, a disease that was practically unheard of 40 years ago has become the most frightening disease in human history. New cases are reported daily and vaccine development is progressing at an ‘unprecedented rate’. The outbreak has been ongoing since March 2014 in the West Africa nations as reported by the World Health Organization and has rapidly progressed into a global epidemic.
The first known outbreak was in 1976 in Africa along the banks of the Ebola River, infecting 284 people and killing 151. Fast-forward to the ongoing epidemic in 2014, reports have been record high of approximately 8,033 suspected case 3,866 deaths confirmed and the numbers are increasing, surpassing the sum of all previous cases. The first case of Ebola was discovered in the U.S. in September and the patient passed away a week later.
The virus is a fast and meticulous killer with a fatality rate up to 90%. It begins by destroying the body’s T-lymphocyte cells, in turn shutting down the immune system. Flu-like symptoms may begin to show within a short-period of two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, starting with a spike in body temperature, headaches, muscle pain, headaches and sore throat, followed by rash, vomiting and diarrhea.
As the virus settles into the body, it eats away the collagen, leading to external and internal bleeding of various orifices and eventual organ failure. The virus is contracted by coming in direct contact with a patient’s bodily fluids, and the chances of it spreading to North America is very small. Similar disease outbreaks have altered history and shaped the medical world.
A widespread, highly infectious mycobacteria spread through the air from of a simple sneeze, cough or a transfer of respiratory fluids that commonly attack the lungs. Many people who develop Tuberculosis were infected with TB bacteria in the past, until their immune system weakens and can no longer defend itself against other infections.
Diagnosis of latent TB infection can be done through a skin test or blood tests in Canada. If tested positive, the doctor may recommend medication. Prevention through vaccinations is normally provided in countries where the disease is common to infants and small children. Those with high risk of developing the disease include HIV patients, babies and young children, and people who became infected with the bacteria in the last 2 years.
Once a major public health threat, Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It is spread through sexual activity and close bodily contact on occasion. In the early stages after exposure, hard and painless sores are developed. The progressive stage includes rashes, warts, swollen lymph glands, and fever and weight loss. Both stages can be resolved without medical treatment.
However, if the infection isn’t treated, it may lead to severe issues concerning the brain, nerves and heart resulting in paralysis, blindness, dementia, deafness, impotence and potential death.
A contagious disease stemming from two virus variants was first said to have evolved from a rodent virus 68,000 to 16,000 years ago. It was once said to be the “world’s most devastating diseases known to humanity” and the only disease that has been declared eradicated through a vaccination that helps the body develop immunity to smallpox.
It is transmitted through close contact with infected people, and vaccine administered up to 4 days of exposure provides protection, preventing infection and lessening severity of the disease. Similar to the other diseases, the symptoms resemble the common flu, such as high fever, fatigue, headache, backache and rash.
Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, commonly known as HIV/AIDS is a retroactive virus transmitted primarily through unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated blood infusions, hypodermic needles and mother-to-child. Similar to Ebola, the illness attacks the body’s immune system, increasing the likelihood for infections and influenza-like illnesses such as fever, throat inflammation, rash, headache, sores and enlarged lymph nodes.
A later stage of clinical latency follows, ranging from 3 years to over 20 years, where the virus is still active but reproduces at low levels. Eventual symptoms may include rapid weight loss, recurring fever, long-term diarrhea, memory loss and other neurologic disorders.
Concerns are raised on whether Ebola will spread to North America and whether people will be protected under their life insurance coverage. In the unlikely event that Ebola will spread to North America, the Insurance Information Institute (III) predicts “the overall costs for health insurers would depend on the size of the outbreak” with high testing costs and “insurers should be able to financially weather the crisis”.
Most life insurance applications do not have questions related to Ebola specifically, but it would most likely fall under one of a number of catch all questions. Simple issue life insurance may be a viable option as it does not require expensive medical exams, blood tests and coverage can be obtained in several days. The policy will have limited coverage due to the higher level of risk involved with no medical plans. With that said, health-related questions may still be asked and if the insured has been declined in the past 2 years, the plan would not be applicable.