By: Katelyn Harms, Infection Prevention and Control
Western Africa is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of Ebola in history. Agencies around the world are collaborating to control the spread of disease and calm the world’s fears about this deadly disease. While a lot of media attention has focused on the threat of Ebola, here are 5 reasons why you are unlikely to become sick with Ebola:
- It’s not easily spread.
- Ebola is only spread through the body fluids of sick individuals. It cannot be transmitted through the air or through a cough or sneeze. The common cold is more contagious.
- While Ebola is highly infectious; meaning people who are infected will likely become very sick, it is not highly contagious.
- Health care workers who care for patients sick with Ebola are at a higher risk because they are commonly exposed to body fluids. People who prepare bodies for burial or eat infected animals are also at high risk for getting the disease.
- We have resources to contain it.
- Luckily, we understand how it is spread and know what needs to be done to contain it.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued extensive guidelines on what health care providers need to do to protect staff from transmitting the infection.
- At Meriter–UnityPoint Health, we screen all our patients for recent travel history- this will capture those who have recently been to areas with Ebola. We also have isolation precautions established, such as dedicated patient rooms and equipment. Staff is also trained to wear the appropriate protective clothing.
- Airports are on high alert.
- CDC has issued travel bans for US citizens going to West African countries.
- Likewise, Ebola affected regions screen all passengers for signs of infections, preventing anyone potentially infected from leaving the region.
- At U.S. airports, trained federal agents also watch for sick passengers and border patrol is asking about potential exposure. Agents are able to identify people who are sick, delay them from entering the country and keep them in special isolation units until the CDC arrives to further care.
- Similar viral infections have entered the US in the past and do not spread.
- Lassa fever is a similar West African virus that causes hemorrhagic disease and kills about 5,000 people each year. There have been seven cases of this entering the United States through travelers with zero cases of transmission. “Ebola will find the Unites Stated just as inhospitable as Lassa fever,” says Amesh Adalja, a member of the Infectious Disease Society of America and an infectious disease doctor at the University of Pittsburgh.
- Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated in The Washington Post, “There is certainly a possibility that someone might get on a plane who is infected in Sierra Leone or Liberia and come to the United States,” he said. “But the chance of it being spread here the way you are seeing there is extraordinarily low, to the point that the CDC and me and other officials feel confident that there’s not going to be an outbreak here.”
- The chance of catching the disease in the US is VERY rare.
- People who have Ebola are only contagious if they are symptomatic. If they are symptomatic, they are not walking around in public. “They are very, very sick and pretty much confined to a hospital and to a bed,” Amesh Adalja stated in The Washington Post.
Additional Resources: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html?s_cid=cdc_homepage_feature_001.