Thursday, October 16, 2014

Let's Talk Ebola

Ebola is all the rage so it is time for EverythingHealth to "talk ebola". Unless you have been in a coma, you are aware that Ebola is sweeping through West Africa and there have been 3 identified cases in the United States.  This is a big news story so anxiety and fear are being felt by anyone who picks up a paper, goes on the internet or watches TV.  What does EverythingHealth say?  First....

Calm down, everyone!

Here are some ebola facts:
  • There are actually 5 different ebola viruses that cause hemorrhagic (bleeding) fever.
  • Ebola is not very contagious because it is not air-borne
  • Initial symptoms are fever, body ache, diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting
  • The incubation period is up to 21 days

The average American is not going to be at risk for ebola. Direct contact with body fluid is needed so standing in a room or an airplane with an ebola victim will not cause infection. Gunshots kill more than 30,000 Americans a year.  Now there is a risk for you to worry about!

Healthcare professionals, trash collectors and  airline clean up crews are the most at risk of exposure to Ebola virus.  Those workers should keep abreast of current events and take precautions.  Until the infection can be controlled in Africa, there is always the chance that a traveler will have silent disease.  The best way the World can protect itself is to help Africa contain the infection.  This does not mean closing airports.  That would simply prevent needed help and cause the virus to spread across borders to other countries in Africa.

What can you do?  First, get a flu shot.  As winter approaches, influenza will be here and it causes some of the same early symptoms as ebola.  I worry about our Emergency Departments being crushed by people with flu symptoms who think they may have ebola.  Please make it easy on all of us and

Get a Flu Shot!

Second, send some $$ to your favorite relief organization.  I recommend Partners in Health and International Medical Corp.   I have personally worked with both of these organizations and they do wonderful relief work around the world. 


Sue G said...

Thanks for being the voice of reason amidst the panic, Dr. B!

Anonymous said...

Very glad to see this, I will share. But the behavior seems at odds with the message. For e.g., look at the NYTimes homepage - it shows a man in hazmat suit spraying in a Liberian village, and a man with street clothes is standing one foot away. If it is NOT airborne, then why the special suits and breathing devices? If transmission is by bodily fluids only, this does not make sense. I can understand where there is not good sanitation, or cultural practices demand washing of bodies before burial that there would be exposure. Can you clear up this ambiguity in the response to this virus? Thank you

Dawn said...

Good to see you back again! Thanks for the calming, educational words.

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Anon: you raise a good question. The ambulance workers and body retrieval workers in Africa are decked out in hazmat suits because the infected victims are not contained and there is body fluid, vomit and contamination in homes and even on the streets. Ebola victims lose massive amounts of fluid from the disease and this creates risk to all around them. They are spraying bleach to kill the virus on contaminated places and even spray down the hazmat suits when they remove them.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Such Ebolaphobia! While the CDC had a clumsy start, when politicians start to play doctor, take cover!

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