Ebola: Should I be worried?

Worried – no.  Informed – yes.

Ebola is rare.  It is not an airborne illness and is not easily spread –

West African countries affected by Ebola.

West African countries affected by Ebola.

so disregard any thoughts of The Last Ship (www.tstdrama.com/TheLastShip) scenario playing out any time in the near future.

Presently the Ebola outbreak is concentrated in West Africa, specifically Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.  That’s approximately 5,000 miles away from The Ohio State University.  That being said, with the ease of travel these days, someone could be in West Africa today and on campus tomorrow, so it’s good to be informed.

Here’s what you need to know:

Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily secretions (stool, urine, saliva, or sweat).  This could be through:

  • Coming in contact with a secretion, perhaps while caring for someone, and then touching your eyes, nose,  mouth, or an open wound
  • Touching an object that has been contaminated and then touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound
  • Eating/handling infected animals (bats, monkeys, rodents, pigs)

The incubation period, that is, the time from contact with the virus until symptoms occur, is usually 5 to 7 days but can last as long as  21 days.  Individuals with no symptoms are not contagious.

Symptoms of Ebola include:

  • High fever, > 101.5
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

If you have been in direct personal contact with anyone who is from or has traveled to one of the West Africa countries listed above or have handled an animal from one of these countries and you experience these symptoms, seek care at the Wexner Medical Center.

If you will be traveling to Africa, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Careful attention to hygiene. Avoid direct contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have contacted infected person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Avoid contact with animals or raw meat.
  • Avoid foreign hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated.  The US Embassy or consulate can provide information on facilities that are suitable for your needs.
  • Monitor health for 21 days if you were in an area with an Ebola outbreak .

Submitted by JoHanna D’Epiro, P.A.

Edited by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D., Gladys Gibbs, M.D.