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Recently there have been multiple reports in the news about a new viral infection which started in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Between March 24th 2014 to September 23rd, 2014 close to 6600 cases emerged in the above mentioned countries and 3,091 of those who were affected have died. The first case of Ebola to enter the United States was through a person who traveled to Dallas, Texas from West Africa. Since Ebola has a long incubation period from the time of exposure to when symptoms appear, which can be anywhere between 2 to 21 days, it has been difficult to initially identify this seriously threatening virus. If a person has recently traveled from the countries mentioned above within the last 21 days or has been in contact with someone who has recently traveled from there, and begins to have a fever, muscle pain, a severe headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or unexplained bleeding or bruising they should seek medical care immediately, especially if they develop a fever of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Keep in mind that Ebola is contacted through direct contact with skin or mucous membranes with blood or body fluids such as sweat, vomit, urine, feces, saliva, and semen or breast milk. Persons are not contagious before they are symptomatic. Ebola is NOT spread through air or water (CDC Health Advisory- Health Alert Network, 2014).
Persons who are high risk for developing infection are:
-Those who have had close physical contact with an individual diagnosed with Ebola-Those who have visited an Ebola-diagnosed patient while he/she was ill-Those who came into direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person diagnosed with Ebola while caring for them such as a health care provider or family member NOT using recommended infection control precautions
How can you avoid risk of developing Ebola:
1. Avoid non-essential travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea as they have been put on a high alert level 3 avoid travel to listing2. Use enhanced precautions when traveling to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Republic of Congo as a few Ebola cases have been identified in these regions as well.
How can you protect yourself against Ebola? What infection control measures are recommended?
-Wash your hands frequently.-Avoid direct contact with blood or body fluids of someone who is sick-Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an affected person’s blood or body fluids-Don’t touch the body of someone who has died from Ebola-Seek medical care immediately if you develop a fever of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, along with headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and unexplained bruising or bleeding. Notify the health care provider upon your arrival of any recent travel or exposure risk to the high risk countries mentioned above (http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/qa.html)
Jenise Ervin, MSN - Director of Public Health/ Park Forest Health Department