Blog | Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let's talk Ebola

Ebola is all the rage so it is time for EverythingHealth to “talk Ebola”. Unless you have been in a coma, you are aware that Ebola is sweeping through West Africa and there have been several identified cases in the United States. This is a big news story so anxiety and fear are being felt by anyone who picks up a paper, goes on the internet or watches TV. What does EverythingHealth say? First, calm down, everyone!

Here are some Ebola facts:
• There are actually 5 different Ebola viruses that cause hemorrhagic (bleeding) fever;
• Ebola is not very contagious because it is not airborne;
• Initial symptoms are fever, body ache, diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting; and
• The incubation period is up to 21 days.

The average American is not going to be at risk for Ebola. Direct contact with body fluid is needed so standing in a room or an airplane with an Ebola victim will not cause infection. Gunshots kill more than 30,000 Americans a year. Now there is a risk for you to worry about!

Health care professionals, trash collectors and airline cleanup crews are the most at risk of exposure to Ebola virus. Those workers should keep abreast of current events and take precautions. Until the infection can be controlled in Africa, there is always the chance that a traveler will have silent disease. The best way the World can protect itself is to help Africa contain the infection. This does not mean closing airports. That would simply prevent needed help and cause the virus to spread across borders to other countries in Africa.

What can you do? First, get a flu shot. As winter approaches, influenza will be here and it causes some of the same early symptoms as Ebola. I worry about our Emergency Departments being crushed by people with flu symptoms who think they may have Ebola. Please make it easy on all of us and get a flu shot!

Second, send some money to your favorite relief organization. I recommend Partners in Health and International Medical Corp. I have personally worked with both of these organizations and they do wonderful relief work around the world.

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.