Given the nature of the current Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and the recent cases in the U.S., Botsford Hospital has been working to ensure we’re prepared for potential patients with Ebola. A board-certified emergency medicine specialist, David Walters, D.O., MHSA, Botsford Hospital’s vice president & chief clinical officer encourages you to read on and follow the links to increase your knowledge of this deadly disease.
What is Ebola?
Ebola is a rare and often deadly disease caused by infection with an Ebola virus – there are five strains. This current Ebola outbreak is the largest due to the nature of where it struck in three very impoverished countries with poor health care infrastructure and public health.
How does someone get it?
Ebola is spread through direct contact through broken skin or mucus membranes with blood or bodily fluids, including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces and vomit of a person who is sick with Ebola. It also can be spread through direct contact with objects contaminated with the virus, such as needles or syringes. It is NOT spread through the air, like many other more common viruses are. A person is only contagious when symptomatic.
Who is at risk? Is there a danger of Ebola spreading in the U.S.?
Only people who have traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the last 21 days or have had close contact with someone who has traveled there and is symptomatic are at risk. The risk of it spreading in the U.S. is very low. We have a totally different context of health care in the U.S. compared to those in impoverished nations. We are much more prepared to handle any kind of suspected Ebola patient and prevent further contamination, given our strong health care system and the resources we have to contain these patients and properly isolate them.
What protocol does Botsford have in place?
As soon as any patient enters our Emergency Center, he or she goes through a screening process that includes answering four questions:
- Have you traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea within the last three weeks?
- Have you been exposed to anyone who traveled from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the last three weeks?
- Do you have a fever?
- Do you have either severe diarrhea or vomited?
If the patient answers yes to those questions, the nurse places the patient immediately into isolation and alerts the physician and Botsford’s Infection Control Department.
Why is it important for staff to screen all patients?
There are so many different diseases people have now, such as common flu, and the symptoms are very similar. Many people come in with a fever or a cough, so we have to ask the question about travel since that’s what differentiates Ebola.
What can people do to reduce the risk of contracting the disease?
The best thing to do is avoid travel to these West African countries where the Ebola outbreak is occurring. If you do have to travel abroad, follow infection control prevention practices.
What should someone do if they have recently traveled to one of these regions and are experiencing symptoms?
Immediately go to a hospital or your local emergency room and notify a health care worker. If you are not symptomatic but have traveled recently or are in contact with someone who has traveled recently, monitor yourself for 21 days. If you develop symptoms, go to your local hospital immediately. Our primary goal is to identify and isolate suspect patients as early as possible to ensure we stop further transmission of Ebola. The biggest thing the public can do to help stop the spread of Ebola is communication.
The community should know that if they have not traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the last 21 days or been in contact with someone who has traveled to any of these three countries, they do not have Ebola even if they have any of the symptoms.