Ever since a patient was diagnosed with the Ebola virus within our U.S. borders, our current times feel a little more like the 15th century rather than the 21st century, and the idea of an invisible monster consuming the country has everyone a little on edge. But while this is a serious and deadly disease, knowing the facts can help assuage fear and panic. Here are some excerpts from the CDC website that answers some of the more common questions about Ebola:
Is there a danger of Ebola spreading in the U.S.?
Ebola is not spread through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low. We know how to stop Ebola’s further spread: thorough case finding, isolation of ill people, contacting people exposed to the ill person, and further isolation of contacts if they develop symptoms. The U.S. public health and medical systems have had prior experience with sporadic cases of diseases such as Ebola. In the past decade, the United States had 5 imported cases of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) diseases similar to Ebola (1 Marburg, 4 Lassa). None resulted in any transmission in the United States.
Also, Ebola is not an airborne disease because it needs a host to survive for any length of time. Because of this, it is also not transmitted through water sources. The only way to contract the virus is through contact with an infected host’s bodily fluids (sweat, vomit, blood, feces, etc.)
Are people who were on the plane with the first U.S. diagnosed Ebola patient at risk?
A person must have symptoms to spread Ebola to others. The ill person did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa and CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring. The person reported developing symptoms five days after the return flight. CDC and public health officials in Texas are taking precautions to identify people who have had close personal contact with the ill person and health care professionals have been reminded to use meticulous infection control at all times.
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
- Fever (greater than 101.5°F)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Can hospitals in the United States care for an Ebola patient?
Any U.S. hospital that is following CDC’s infection control recommendations(http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/environmental-infection-control-in-hospitals.html) and can isolate a patient in their own room with a private bathroom is capable of safely managing a patient with Ebola.
The CDC has released guidelines and is offering ongoing training information to help hospitals properly prepare and manage treatment procedures for Ebola patients. In addition, the CDC is setting up a dedicated CDC Response Team that could be on the ground within a few hours at any hospital that receives a confirmed patient with Ebola. The CDC Response Team would provide in-person, expert support and training on infection control, healthcare safety, medical treatment, contact tracing, waste and decontamination, public education and other issues. The CDC Response Team would help ensure that clinicians, and state and local public health practitioners, consistently follow strict standards of protocol to ensure safety of the patient and healthcare workers.
Can people recover from Ebola?
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.
Symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival:
- Providing intravenous fluids (IV)and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
- Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
- Treating other infections if they occur
Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.
How do I protect myself against Ebola?
- If you must travel to an area affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, protect yourself by doing the following:
- Wash hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of any person, particularly someone who is sick.
- Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
- Do not touch the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
- Do not touch bats and nonhuman primates or their blood and fluids and do not touch or eat raw meat prepared from these animals.
- Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on medical facilities.
- Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (temperature of 101.5°F) and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
- Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else besides a healthcare facility.