Ebola- How to Respond as an Office or Individual to Possible Exposure
PATIENTS- Please let us know if you are ill and have traveled from West Africa in the past 21 days.
Ebola has hit the news big lately. Anytime we are faced with a new disease that has a very high fatality rate (about 50% of those infected are dying) this is obviously a cause for alarm. The images on TV don’t quite make sense. We see US doctors and workers in complete body gear covered from head to toe with the full head covering going into African areas where everyone else around them is in normal clothing. This is a virus that is transmitted by body fluids much like HIV or Hepatitis C. This full body isolation gear actually sends the wrong message. You will not catch Ebola sitting in the same room with someone who has Ebola. You could potentially catch it from their body secretions, so avoiding intimate contact, sharing food or drinks, good hand-washing, and isolating the infected patients should be the key.
If you are not living in West Africa in the countries that have Ebola, you should not worry at all. The best approach to avoid having Ebola spread around the world is that those who travel from the countries that have Ebola, stay away from all intimate contacts for 21 days. If the person who has traveled from one of these countries in West Africa becomes ill (fever, body aches, muscle aches, bleeding, or GI symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting), then that individual should stay away from others, and tell their doctor or ER that they potentially could have Ebola so the necessary precautions can be taken.
Common Sense Guidelines for a family of a possible Ebola patient:
- Continue to love them, be around them if they are not coughing but avoid intimacy (kissing, sex) and don’t have contact with their mucous or oral secretions.
- If you touch either, use disposable gloves or wash your hands right afterward with soap and water.
- If possible use different bathing facilities, and avoid contact with their bodily functions (urine, stool). If you must share a bathroom, shower rather than taking baths.
- Do NOT eat from the same plate, or from the same serving dish if it could be contaminated.
- Don’t have the potential Ebola family member prepare any meals.
Common Sense Guidelines for Clinics, Hospitals, and Doctors offices (not in the Ebola countries):
- Use universal precautions on everyone (hand-washing before and after each patient visit, and use gloves when dealing with body fluid samples).
- Screen your ill patients by asking if they have traveled from West Africa (the list may grow) in the past 21 days.
- Wipe down toys and waiting room surfaces, bathrooms, and any common use areas frequently (at least daily, and immediately if a possible actual carrier was seen).
- Have those with direct contact with the patients, use a mask and gloves when a potential Ebola patient is seen (ill and travelled from West Africa in past 21 days).
A study (you can read here… ) that looked at specimens from 33 different surfaces in and around known Ebola patients failed to find any contamination of surfaces unless there was blood present (two of the 33 were positive and both had blood). This should be very reassuring that you really can only catch Ebola from an ill or dead person with Ebola when you are in contact with blood, urine, stool, saliva, tears, vomit, breast milk, or semen from that ill person.
This world health crisis will likely get worse before it gets better. While we need to be careful, there is no need to panic. Prayers and heart-felt sympathy goes out to all who are in the high risk areas. Please be kind, loving, and careful.