1. What is Ebola and how is it contracted?
Ebola is a viral illness. It is contracted via blood and body fluids from patients who are ill with the virus. People are contagious only when they are symptomatic, not during the incubation time without symptoms. Incubation is typically 8-10 days, but can be 2 to 21 days.
2. What are the Ebola infection signs and treatment options available?
Symptoms are flu like with sudden fever, malaise, myalgia’s, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Bleeding occurs in severe disease and is characterized by bruising, disseminated intravascular coagulation (inability to clot appropriately). Treatment is supportive care; IV fluids, blood components etc.. There is no vaccine or specific treatment although antibody serum from people who have survived the disease has been used. This is not official, but has been used “in the field” so to speak by CDC scientists.
3. Is Ebola in our region and, if not, what are the chances that Ebola makes it way here?
Ebola is not in the United States that we know of except for the patients who are being brought to Atlanta for continued treatment. Although we are all within 24 hours of any epidemic, this one is probably much less likely to be a problem here for several reasons; our healthcare system would likely pick up the disease pretty quickly, our regular infection prevention and control measures used would limit spread, and our public health system would react immediately for case contacts.
In the United States, we use standard precautions and this goes a long way to prevent these types of infections from being transmitted. The areas that have problems with this disease are typically in the very remote areas of Africa, although this most recent upsurge has urban areas included and at least one case in Nigeria is the result of air travel. No one needs to panic, just watch closely.
Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth
Infection Prevention & Control
Connie Schmidt, RN
Stephanie Marglin, MD
275 Sandwich Street
Plymouth, MA 02360