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Understanding Ebola: What You Should Know to Protect Your Health

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This information is intended to serve as a resource for our community and detail how UnityPoint Health is prepared to treat the Ebola virus and protect patients, the public and our caregivers.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a serious, often fatal virus that is transmitted from infected animals to humans and spread from human to human through direct contact with bodily fluids. It’s important that you know the facts about Ebola and the steps you can take to prevent infection and limit or stop the spread of the virus.

Know the Facts about Ebola

  • Ebola is not transmitted through air, water, food or casual contact.
  • Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person sick with Ebola or exposure to contaminated objects such as soiled clothing, bed linens or used needles. 
  • People who have been exposed to Ebola are not contagious unless they have symptoms.
  • Symptoms include: 
    • fever (greater than 100.4º F)  and
    • severe headache
    • muscle pain
    • weakness
    • diarrhea
    • vomiting
    • stomach pain 
    • unexplained bleeding or bruising.
  • Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. 
  • People who choose to travel out of an infected country are screened for Ebola and are not allowed to travel if they have symptoms.

What You Should Do If You Have Signs of Ebola

  • Have You Traveled Out of the Country to an Ebola Affected Area? If you have traveled outside the United States in the last 21 days to an area known to have the Ebola virus and are experiencing symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately.
  • If you have traveled to an Ebola affected area in the last 21 days but are not experiencing symptoms, contact your state health department for symptom monitoring and follow up.
  • Do You Have Symptoms? Call First: Before going to a health care facility, please consider calling first.  A clinic or ER may be able to assess your symptoms over the phone and instruct you about what to do next. This may prevent the potential spread of the disease to others at these locations if you are infected.

If you think you or someone you know may have symptoms of Ebola, please call your doctor. 

How Ebola is Treated

  • Isolation: People infected with Ebola require intensive, supportive care. They are isolated from others and treated by health care workers following strict infection control procedures.
  • Rehydration: People with Ebola are frequently dehydrated and need intravenous fluids or oral rehydration with solutions that contain electrolytes. 
  • Immediate Care: There is currently no specific treatment to cure the virus, but immediate medical care can improve the survival rate and control the spread of the disease. 

How UnityPoint Health is Prepared to Treat Ebola and Protect the Public

  • Prepared to Respond: UnityPoint Health, UnityPoint Clinic and UnityPoint at Home are prepared to respond to Ebola in a responsible, safe way to help ensure the best outcome for patients, the public and our caregivers.
  • Extensive Training and Education: UnityPoint Health doctors and other clinical staff that specialize in infectious diseases are being trained and educated on how to safely treat people with Ebola.
  • Precautions: UnityPoint Health emphasizes standard precautions when caring for all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of personal protective equipment, safe injection practices and more.
  • Control Measures: When treating serious infectious diseases such as the Ebola virus, UnityPoint Health doctors and clinical staff apply extra infection control measures to prevent contact with the patient’s blood and body fluids. 
  • Protective Equipment: UnityPoint Health doctors and clinical staff use personal protective equipment, or PPE, including gloves, an impermeable gown, a mask, and eye protection such as goggles or face shields when treating patients with infectious diseases.
  • Working Together: UnityPoint Health is working closely with state and local public health departments and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regarding risk factors, disease detection and safe treatment to best protect the public and our health care workers.

Lisa Veach, MD"Our approach is to detect and protect,” says Dr. Lisa Veach, a UnityPoint Clinic infectious disease specialist in Des Moines, Iowa. “By working closely with our state and local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, we are on top of the latest guidelines regarding assessment, diagnosis and safe treatment and we can help our communities understand the facts and what precautions they should take to protect their health."

If you think you or someone you know may have symptoms of Ebola, please call your doctor.