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Healthcare Triage is almost one year old. To celebrate, we're going to give you… more Healthcare Triage. Two episodes a week. Monday will be a traditional episode, full of all the detail and knowledge you've come to expect.
But a second episode, on Friday, will be more of a newsy episode. We're going to cover topics that have been floating around social media and your favorite websites. It's Healthcare Triage News.

Today's episode is about Ebola and salt. Enjoy!

John Green -- Executive Producer
Stan Muller -- Director, Producer
Aaron Carroll -- Writer
Mark Olsen -- Graphics

http://www.twitter.com/aaronecarroll
http://www.twitter.com/crashcoursestan
http://www.twitter.com/realjohngreen
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Healthcare Triage is almost one year old. To celebrate, we're going to give you more Healthcare Triage, two episodes a week. Monday will be a traditional episode, full of all the detail and knowledge you've come to expect from us, but a second episode, on Friday, will be more of a news-y episode. We're going to cover topics that have been floating around social media and your favorite websites. This is Healthcare Triage News.

[Healthcare Triage News opening theme]

Our first story is ripped from social media. Ebola. Just the name's enough to send panic through the hearts of people all over the world. Here's what you need to know. People infected with Ebola can get serious fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and even bleeding from orifices all over their body. Eventually, they can develop multiple organ failure, which causes death. There's no real treatment in terms of a cure, but that doesn't mean that medical care can't help.

We can still provide supportive care, which might include hydration, nutrition, and blood pressure support. We can also make sure people don't get secondary infections while they're sick. Those can really be dangerous. This may seem simple, but, unfortunately, outbreaks often occur in settings without the resources necessary to provide even that basic supportive care. It's why two Americans were recently flown home with the disease: to get better supportive care here.

There are five types of Ebola viruses. They have a range of survival rates. The most recent outbreak is of the Zaire variety, and it seems to have a mortality rate of about sixty percent, meaning that sixty percent of people that get it die. That's the rate in Africa. It may be lower for those treated here in the United States.

The good news is that Ebola doesn't seem to mutate much. In fact, it's pretty much the same virus that it was when we first found it in 1976. Unlike a lot of viruses, people aren't generally infectious until they're pretty sick. That means there's not much chance people will be spreading it around without knowing it. You also need to come into contact with bodily fluids to catch it, so there's not much chance of getting it from being in the same room or an airplane with someone else. Because hospitals in many developed nations have the resources necessary to quarantine patients with infections, it's unlikely an outbreak of Ebola could spread too far before it was contained. The same is not true, unfortunately, in many of the countries currently affected.

Our other story is designed to make me go, "Argh!" It comes to us from the New England Journal of Medicine, where a recent issue focused on salt in our diets. For a long time, we've notice that high salt intake has been associated with high blood pressure. It's also been associated with an increased risk of death or cardiovascular events like stroke, heart attack, or heart failure. Because of this, many of us have called for us to drastically reduce our salt intake. The FDA calls for us to eat no more that 2.3 grams of sodium a day. The WHO says it should be 2 grams, and the American Heart Association says less than 1.5 grams a day is ideal. The average American consumes about 3.4 grams of sodium each day. But the Institute of Medicine warned us, and I'm quoting, "...the evidence on health outcomes is not consistent with the efforts that encourage lowering of dietary sodium in the general population to 1,500 mg/day. Further research may shed more light on the association between lower -- 1,500 to 2,300 mg -- levels of sodium and health outcomes."

This study showed us that, compared to people who eat three to six grams of sodium a day, people who eat more than seven grams a day do have a significantly higher rate of death or cardiovascular events. So, yes, they should eat less salt. But the study also found that again, compared to people who eat three to six grams of sodium a day, people who eat less than three grams a day have even higher rates of death or cardiovascular events. In other words, a very low-salt diet was associated with a higher risk of death or cardiovascular events than the high-salt diet, yet all of these groups keep recommending that we eat such a low-salt diet. There's no evidence that this is a good idea. There's a growing body of evidence that it's a bad idea. It's time for us to reconsider those recommendations.

[Healthcare Triage News closing theme]