NY Travel Clinic

Ebola Outbreak in the US – Update and Prevention Tips

Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who was traveling to Dallas, was the first one to develop symptoms for Ebola in the US. The two nurses who took care of him also tested positive for Ebola. Mr. Duncan did not survive but the two nurses have since recovered.

There is no risk of transmission of the Ebola virus from people who are exposed to the virus because Ebola primarily spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids. According to specialists at the Emory University Hospital, the virus is present on a patient’s skin after he develops symptoms. The Ebola virus can survive on dry surfaces for a few hours and in puddles and collections of body fluids for several days. One way to kill the virus is through bleach.

Governors of both New York and New Jersey have announced mandatory quarantines for medical workers who are returning from West Africa. Illinois has ordered a 21-day quarantine for all high-risk individuals. 24 public health laboratories are now ready to test for Ebola. All five airports in the US – Kennedy International, Washington Dulles International, O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson International and Newark Liberty International – are actively screening travelers from West Africa.

While there is no officially approved drug for the treatment of Ebola, ZMapp has been used on two patients in the US. The treatment was not continued since there were no more doses available. The drug is made in tobacco plants and has limited availability. Researchers are aggressively working on developing a vaccine but to date, there is nothing significant to report.

Some key tips recommended by New York physician Dr. Gafanovich who is a founder of a travel clinic, to keep in mind to prevent from getting infected with the Ebola virus:

  1. Avoid areas in which Ebola infections have been reported and suspected. If you are already in such a region or have no option, avoid visiting healthcare facilities unless you have the infection.
  2. Avoid contact with the infected or anyone whom you think may have the disease or has displayed any symptoms. The primary source of Ebola virus transmission is through direct contact with infected people. Blood and bodily secretions of infected people are high-risk. Remains of infected bodies are also contagious so it is essential that any contact with bodies and bedding and clothing of the deceased is avoided at all cost.
  3. It is believed that the disease was initially spread via animals, most probably through the consumption of the meat of primates. For those in areas reported or suspected to have Ebola, it is recommended that one should avoid purchasing, eating, or handling wild-caught bush meat.
  4. Ideally speaking, it’s best to avoid areas of infection altogether but in case you are a healthcare worker or a volunteer and cannot avoid being around infected patients, make sure you take extreme caution and wear protective clothing. Initially, the CDC recommended disposable masks, gloves, goggles and gowns at all times if you are around infected patients but now it recommends a Level 3 suit with a protective hood and taped seams. In addition, never reuse needles and discard any bedding or clothing that has come in direct contact with infected patients.
  5. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap. This is true whether you are in an area of infection or not but especially true if you are in a potentially risky zone. Wash your hands up to the elbow regularly.

The Ebola virus has already caused much distress in the African region. The US is taking active measures to hinder the spread of the disease but by following the above mentioned tips, you might also play an active role in protecting yourself from possible infection.