By Dave Denniston
Director of Risk Management
McNeil & Company
By now we have all heard of, and received both information and probably misinfor-mation about Ebola. The introduction of the virus into the United States has many people anxious about what this means to both emergency responders and the public in general. Recent events involving people that may have been infected and then used modes of public transportation such as airlines and cruise ships adds to the fear that people have. It is important to understand that this is an evolving situation and there is a need to stay informed about the disease and the current recommendations. Also keep in mind that everything reported on the news, read on the internet or even shared by your friends may or may not be the correct information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to monitor the situation and update their information. The most current information is available at www.cdc.gov. We encourage anyone who may come in contact with the disease to take immediate steps to educate and protect themselves from exposure. The first step is to know the current signs and symptoms of Ebola. These include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and unexplained hemorrhage. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure with the average being 8 to 10 days.
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact broken skin or mucous membranes such as eyes, nose or mouth. At this point Ebola is not believed to be spread through air, water or food. There is no FDA-approved vaccine available at this time. Prevention is the best method to avoid the disease. As with most illness there are basic measures that humans should take. Practice careful hygiene including hand washing with lots of soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Always avoid contact with blood and body fluids. Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids such as clothes, bedding, needles and medical equipment.
You may not know if a person is infected or has any other illness for that matter, so always use general precautions and practice good hygiene. This becomes increasing-ly important during the cold and flu season. You should stay alert for updates to the current situation and changes in recommendations. The greater the level of contact you have with people in an EMS or healthcare setting, the more informed you should become. Ebola has been around since 1976. The risk to the average US citi-zen appears to be low at this point but people are encouraged to stay informed and alert to their surroundings.
McNeil and Company has released a course entitled Ebola Preparedness that is now available on their E learning platform. Registered users may log in at https://training.mcneilandcompany.com .