Should I be Worried about Ebola?

When you turn on the TV these days you hear multiple reports about Ebola. People are starting to talk about this virus everywhere. What does all this mean to people in Pocahontas County?

Ebola is a serious viral disease that does not occur naturally in the United States, but travelers who are exposed in another part of the world can become ill after they have arrived back in the U.S. Large outbreaks are occurring in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Early symptoms of Ebola include fever, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain, headache, weakness, sore throat, conjunctivitis, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Some patients have slow pulse rates, rapid breathing or a rash. After several days, patients may have bleeding gums, nose bleeds, bruising, or blood in the urine, stool or vomitus. Symptoms generally develop between two and 21 days after exposure.

How do people get Ebola?

Ebola can spread if you come into direct contact with the body fluids of someone who has symptoms of Ebola. Body fluids include blood, urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen. Direct contact would occur when there is a break in the skin or bodily fluids are splashed into the eyes, nose or mouth. Ebola is not spread through the air, by water or through food. This viral disease does not spread through casual contact like passing someone in a hallway.

How likely is it that people in West Virginia would be exposed to Ebola?

This is extremely unlikely. It is possible that a traveler could bring Ebola into the state from somewhere else. Hospitals in the United States, with more doctors, nurses and supplies such as gowns, gloves, goggles, masks and private rooms, are much better equipped than African hospitals.

Preparations are underway at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital to quickly detect, identify and care for any patient who would be suspected of carrying the Ebola virus. PMH has participated in multiple conference calls with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and has a plan of action. Among recent change to standard processes are additions to the patient screening procedure such as questions focused on travel outside of the U.S. or exposure to someone who has recently traveled outside the country or had contact with a suspected carrier of the virus.

PMH is initiating mock drills planned to aid in donning the appropriate safety equipment and simulating the procedure of caring for a patient suspected of carrying the virus that presents to the ED until assistance from the CDC would arrive. In addition, we currently have masks available at entrances, personal protective equipment available for staff and new procedures are being put into place as they become available to PMH.

The greater concern to the public this time of year is the flu virus. That is why it is extremely important to be vaccinated against the flu, use good handwashing hygiene and cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing. Thousands of people die each year in the United States due to complications from the flu.

Ebola information adapted from the WVDHHR