By Sarah Mansheim
There’s a joke circulating on social media this week that says, “I’d tell you a joke about Ebola, but you probably won’t get it.”
Despite the constant coverage of Ebola in the media, an outbreak on American soil remains unlikely because it is so hard to contract it. According to the Center for Disease Control, Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:
• blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
• objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
• infected animals
Further, the CDC states Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has released information about transmission, mirroring the CDC’s list–adding only that Ebola can be spread through “direct contact through a break in the skin or splashed into the eyes, nose or mouth.”
Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick, because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients, the CDC said.
Last Wednesday, the CDC announced that public health authorities will begin active post-arrival monitoring of travelers whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea.
“These travelers are now arriving to the United States at one of five airports where entry screening is being conducted by Customs and Border Protection and CDC. Active post-arrival monitoring means that travelers without febrile illness or symptoms consistent with Ebola will be followed up daily by state and local health departments for 21 days from the date of their departure from West Africa. Six states (New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Georgia), where approximately 70 percent of incoming travelers are headed, have already taken steps to plan and implement active post-arrival monitoring which will begin on Monday, Oct. 27. Active post-arrival monitoring will begin in the remaining states in the days following. CDC is providing assistance with active post-arrival monitoring to state and local health departments, including information on travelers arriving in their states, and upon request, technical support, consultation and funding,” the CDC said.
Meanwhile, Greenbrier Valley Medical Center has released a statement regarding the hospital’s preparedness for handling and treating the Ebola virus.
“Greenbrier Valley Medical Center is committed to creating a safe environment for the patients, employees, physicians and visitors who come to our hospital. We are following the detailed checklist for Ebola Preparedness provided by the CDC and monitoring all updates to this guidance. We have created an Ebola Task Force that includes GVMC staff and local health leaders. We are preparing to begin conducting drills this week to prepare for any threat of Ebola,” the GVMC press release said last Monday.
“Our primary focus is preparation to appropriately identify, isolate, test and transfer if necessary. Training has been provided for Emergency Department staff and screening protocols are posted for our clinicians’ use. We are using these screening guidelines with all patients who present to the emergency department with risk factors and symptoms that could be associated with Ebola. In the event that a patient has potential symptoms and risk factors for Ebola, the patient will be placed in isolation. Our hospital has a dedicated isolation room and supplies of protective apparel are already on site.
“If a case of Ebola is suspected we will immediately notify local and state health departments and the CDC and follow their guidance for treatment, and arrange for the transfer of any patient with a confirmed case of Ebola to a hospital that specializes in the care of such infectious conditions.
“We understand the concerns related to Ebola and want to reassure our community that we are prepared. While we believe the risk of an Ebola case at our hospital remains low at this time, our dedicated physicians and nurses remain alert and ready to provide care, if necessary,” the press release said.