It’s only rational that people would fear a disease that first appeared in a foreign country and has taken thousands of lives. When people don’t understand something, fear is a common response. But information can go a long way in helping people understand (and take precautions if necessary). Read on for answers to the common questions about Ebola.
Are people in the U.S. at risk?
With two confirmed cases of Ebola in the U.S. and massive amounts of media coverage, some fear a major outbreak but that would be highly unlikely. Ebola isn’t an airborne virus; it’s not very easy to catch. In order to contract Ebola, you would have to come into contact with bodily fluids (saliva, blood, sweat, vomit, ect.) or soiled clothing or bed sheets of an infected person.
Further, the U.S. has the infrastructure, procedures and technology to prevent the disease from running rampant within U.S. borders.
Are travelers at risk?
The CDC has issued a Warning, Level 3 travel notice for those traveling to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which essentially means the CDC suggests you not travel there if at all possible. These are the countries where Ebola is most rampant. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently labeled an Alert, Level 2 for the small number of cases the country has experienced, which seem to be unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa. Nigeria has experienced a small number of cases and is labeled a Watch, Level 1, which means travelers should take normal precautions.
The CDC does not recommend avoiding other countries and says the risk to travelers visiting countries not listed above is low. They say travelers should avoid sick people and hospitals
If travelers must visit one of the countries where an outbreak is occurring, how can they protect themselves?
According to the CDC, these are the steps you should take to protect yourself when traveling to an Ebola outbreak area:
· Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
· Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of any person, particularly someone who is sick.
· Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
· Do not touch the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
· Do not touch bats and nonhuman primates or their blood and fluids and do not touch or eat raw meat prepared from these animals.
· Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
· Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (temperature of 101.5oF/ 38.6oC) and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
o Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else besides a healthcare facility.
When returning to the U.S., the CDC advises monitoring your health for 21 days. Call your doctor or the hospital (and tell them about your travel, so they can prepare to treat you) if you experience any of the following symptoms: fever, headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
For answers to other questions you have about Ebola, visit the CDC website.