If your social media feeds look anything like ours, the news about Ebola entering the United States is now overpowering baby photos, marriage proposals and Justin Bieber. Headlines announcing this news include words like “deadly”, “highly infectious” and “incurable.”
Before your anxiety level hits the roof, check out this infographic to learn the truth about Ebola, how to help prevent the disease and why the United States is more prepared than West Africa to prevent the spread of this virus.
You should be aware that the U.S. public health and medical systems have had prior success responding to sporadic cases of diseases such as Ebola. Over the last decade, the United States has had five imported cases of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever, a disease similar to Ebola, none of which resulted in any transmissions within the U.S. Hemorrhagic Fever is often used to describe a severe multisystem syndrome - which means that multiple organ systems in the body are affected, often times including the vascular system and the body’s ability to regulate itself. Lassa fever, which is also a hemorrhagic disease that kills about 5,000 people each year, has also been treated in the United States with zero cases of transmission. In addition, two Ebola-stricken patients have already been successfully treated and discharged from hospitals in the United States.
However, knowing the possibility exists, medical and public health professionals across the country, including UnityPoint Health locations, have been preparing to respond.
“We have several rooms at each hospital that can be utilized to safely provide care to patients in isolation. Our providers are aware of when to consider Ebola and of the need for use of isolation measures as detailed by the CDC,” said Dr. Lisa Veach, infectious disease doctor at UnityPoint Clinic - Multi-Specialty - Methodist Plaza.
Protocols have been put in place for diagnosing patients and infection control measures will be taken to care for patients who have, or are suspected of having, the Ebola disease. Through case finding, isolation of infected patients, contacting people exposed to the infected person, and further isolation of contacts if they develop symptoms, the spread of Ebola in the United States can be stopped.
Key Facts about Ebola
While this is a serious disease that has affected many in West Africa, Americans should stay calm and learn the real facts about Ebola before panicking.
Ebola is not an airborne virus. This means it can only spread when blood, semen, vomit, feces, urine or other bodily fluids of an infected person come into contact with another person’s mucus membrane.
Meaning you can only get Ebola from:
- Touching contaminated objects, such as needles
- Touching the blood or fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola
- Touching infected animals, their blood or other body fluids, or their meat
You cannot get Ebola through:
- The air
Ebola is only contagious in infected people who are symptomatic, or displaying symptoms.
There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines, but two potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.
Early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.
Nearly every hospital in the U.S. is equipped to treat Ebola patients and keep them in isolation. (See “Treating Ebola in the United States vs. Africa” below to learn more.)
Signs and Symptoms of Ebola
Symptoms of Ebola can appear two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, with the average being eight to 10 days. Symptoms of Ebola include:
Many Americans are asking, “How can I protect myself from Ebola?” Here are some tips provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that can help prevent the spread of Ebola:
Avoid traveling to areas affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak
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 a person’s blood or body fluids.
Seek medical care immediately if you develop:
*Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else besides a healthcare facility.
Treating Ebola in the United States vs. Africa
- No running water
- No climate control
- No floors
- Inadequate medical supplies
Medical staff at hospitals and clinics across the nation are prepared and ready to respond to a potential infection.
All locations providing care will have adequate resources, including:
- Running water
- The ability to clean and disinfect frequently
- Ample medical supplies
- Private rooms for isolation
- Protective equipment
- The means to safely dispose of infected materials
Any U.S. hospital that is following CDC's infection control recommendations and can isolate a patient in a private room is capable of safely managing a patient with Ebola.
Response Plan at UnityPoint Health
UnityPoint Health screens all of our patients for symptoms that align with Ebola and for recent travel history to identify any patients who have recently been to areas with Ebola. UnityPoint Health also has the following procedures in place if a patient is identified or suspected to have Ebola:
Protective equipment will be worn by all providers entering the patient’s room. This equipment includes: gloves, fluid resistant or impermeable gown, eye protection (such as goggles or a face shield) and a facemask.
Visitors will be restricted. Visitors will not be allowed to enter the patient’s room. Exceptions may be considered for those who are essential in the patient’s well being; however, a logbook will be kept to document all entering persons.
Environmental infection control measures will be implemented. This includes diligent cleaning, disinfection and safe handling and removal of contaminated materials.
Help Spread the Truth about Ebola
Public education and better understanding of Ebola is key to preventing the spread of this virus. Share this infographic to help spread the facts about Ebola!
If you or a loved one is displaying symptoms of Ebola, call your primary healthcare provider and limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else besides a healthcare facility. If it is an emergency dial 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.