A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Ebola: What you need to know (including stay calm!)

EBOLA-a-IFrom the time the Ebola outbreak began this summer in West Africa, the virus has received an increasing amount of attention among health care professionals and news media.

With several cases in the U.S. confirmed, we imagine you have some questions about Ebola, including what it is, how it’s transmitted, the chance of an outbreak in the U.S. and how health care facilities are preparing?

Most importantly, stay calm and don’t panic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has emphasized that the chance for an outbreak in the U.S. is VERY LOW.

Here’s what you should know about Ebola:

1. Ebola, previously known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, is an extremely rare and deadly virus first discovered in 1976. Symptoms include severe headache, a fever greater than 101.5 degrees, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle pain, diarrhea and unexplained bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, although symptoms generally appear 8-10 days after exposure.

2. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the virus through bodily fluids of a sick person. The sick person must be showing symptoms for the virus to be transmitted. Fluids that may contain the virus include blood, urine, saliva, feces, vomit and semen.

Remember, Ebola is NOT spread through casual contact or like respiratory illnesses such as measles or chickenpox, which can be transmitted by virus particles that remain suspended in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Coughing and sneezing are uncommon symptoms of Ebola. But, a sick person with Ebola who spreads mucus or saliva through a sneeze could transmit Ebola IF AND ONLY IF those fluids came in contact with another person’s eyes, nose or mouth, according to the CDC.

3. The CDC has continued to reiterate that the risk for an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is extremely low. Hospitals and clinics, including Marshfield Clinic, are prepared to treat and stop Ebola’s spread – if necessary.

Patients calling Marshfield Clinic will now be asked if they have traveled to West Africa in the past 21 days or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with Ebola. If you answer “yes,” you’ll be asked if you have a fever.

Again, it’s important to remember hospitals and clinics routinely prepare and train for handling infectious diseases. There is no cause for alarm. Health care providers throughout the U.S. are preparing in similar ways.

4. You have no reason to be concerned if you have not been in West Africa or had direct contact with someone who returned from there in the last month. Remember, it’s cold and flu season in the U.S., so if you have a headache, fever, weakness or other cold-like symptoms, it’s most likely a common virus.

At the end of the day …

Of course, if you have any concerns call your health care provider. The Ebola outbreak is being carefully monitored by the CDC and other global health organizations, and at this time Ebola poses no risk to the U.S.

For more information about Ebola, visit www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola

 

Dr. Nelson is chief medical officer of Marshfield Clinic.

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