On September 30, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) used laboratory tests to confirm the first case of Ebola Virus to be diagnosed in the United States. The infected individual had traveled from West Africa to Dallas, Texas. There are news reports that he had come into close contact with an infected person in West Africa, but had not had symptoms prior to traveling. The Ebola virus is only contagious when people are experiencing active symptoms. As mentioned in my previous post, symptoms include: high fevers (greater than 101.5 F), severe headache, muscle pains, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and stomach pain. The virus can only be transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids of an infected individual (blood, urine, saliva, feces, vomit, semen, or sweat). Unlike the flu or common cold, it is not transmitted via airborne methods.
Should I be worried?
While it is concerning that the United States has experienced its first documented case of Ebola Virus Disease, this is not the first time a viral hemorrhagic disease has been transmitted within our Country. In the past decade there have been a handful of viruses similar to Ebola Virus that have had isolated cases within the United States. Baton Rouge area hospitals are equipped to appropriately isolate possible Ebola Virus patients. Also, the CDC and public health officials are proactive in identifying people that have had close contact with the infected individual.
What precautions can I take?
Unless absolutely necessary, please avoid travel to Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone, Africa. If you have had close contact with an Ebola Virus individual, you should monitor yourself for the following symptoms: fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, or stomach pain. If you have these symptoms AND you were in recent contact with an Ebola Virus infected individual, you should seek medical attention at your local hospital as soon as possible and advise them of your suspicions.
Is it safe to travel?
The CDC released a recent statement reinforcing the recommendation to avoid travel to affected areas, specifically Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, Africa. People traveling out of West Africa are screened for evidence of fevers at the time of flight boarding. Again, since transmission is via direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, it is unlikely that the Ebola virus will be spread to flight passengers. Additionally, most people with active infection are likely not well enough to travel. That being said, I strongly recommend that you perform regular hand washing when flying and avoid coming into contact with bodily fluids of anyone that appears ill. You should receive your flu vaccine prior to any current travel.
I understand that the presence of Ebola Virus disease in the United States is alarming. Arming yourself with knowledge is the most important step in lowering your fears. For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/about.html.
…And what about the Influenza Virus?
I will also take this moment to remind you that the Influenza Virus, while not as prominent in the news, can also be deadly. We at The Baton Rouge Clinic recommend that all persons 6 months of age or older should receive a flu vaccine. The flu season generally peaks between December and February. However, for your body to create appropriate defense mechanisms, you should get your flu shot now.
Our Flu Clinic is now open Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm on the second floor. There is no appointment necessary. This is one step you can take to help prevent serious complications associated with the influenza virus. For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2014-2015.htm