Ebola, Ebola, Ebola … everywhere you look today Ebola seems to be the topic of conversation. In the media, in classrooms, in the healthcare arena … and we should be paying attention to Ebola, but it certainly seems as if most people really don’t know very much about the virus.
In general I find that because the public (and some in the media) tend to have little understanding of epidemics, infectious diseases, and how they spread, we see a severe over reaction to the events of the last few weeks. And because the average person appears to not have much time for detailed explanations, the discussions in the media are short and inconclusive.
I do hope everyone can calm down a bit and temper the hysteria and this starts with a solid understanding of the disease, how it spreads, and how to be prepared for this kind of disease.
Here is some great information provided by the Riverside Community Hospital that we should all be aware of:
Ebola is not spread in the same manner as other viruses—such as colds and flu. It is NOT airborne. It is only spread by contact with an infected person who is symptomatic.This means the person has to have a fever (over 101.5), severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained hemorrhage to be able to shed the virus.
Yes—these symptoms are flu-like. So the distinguishing factor that sets Ebola apart from other illnesses right now is —travel to a country where Ebola outbreaks are occurring—which is certain parts of West Africa. Travel to other countries is not a risk factor.
The other risk factor would be a direct care giver that has taken care of a confirmed Ebola patient—this does not apply right now, as there are no confirmed cases in California.
So in summary—Ebola is not spread via the air, and does not live on surfaces for long periods of time—the main mode of transmission is contact with body fluids of a symptomatic patient.The irony is that the average person in America should really be paying more attention to the flu virus and how quickly and easily it spreads.
So, my recommendation for you is that you will use good sources for your Ebola related information … like the Harvard School of Public Health (@HarvardHSPH), the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (@JohnsHopkinsSPH), and the Centers for Disease Control (@CDCgov). Yes, politics havebecome a part of the dissemination of information, but if you stick to the facts of the disease, and try to wade through the political jargon, you will find that there is excellent health-related information available to you.
Charles D. Sands, PhD, MEd
Dean, College of Allied Health
Professor, Health Science