Ebola: Defending against disease and pandemics

Ebola, or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a viral disease that almost always results in death. The infectious disease is spread by a filovirus via to those who come into contact with infectious body fluids. At this point in the epidemic, scientists have not yet identified the original host species. This is a disease pathogen that has transferred from another organism to the human population.

Sadly, we are discovering that already there are different strains of the virus. How many strains are out there, we do not know. The death rate of those infected with the more viral strain is upwards of 90%, according to the BBC news. The first episode of Ebola was reported back in 1976 and at that time was thought to have come from people eating fruit bats.

Mechanisms of Transmission

The transmission of the virus from one person to the next when an uninfected person comes into contact with infected discharge such as blood, vomit and open wounds. It can be passed to people who are not in direct contact with a person who is infected such as through soiled bed linens. At this point, it seems that the virus needs a direct pathway into its host before infection can be transmitted. The virus is not airborne. Unlike the flu or the common cold, which is spread through contact and by air, Ebola is thus far, only transmitted direct methods.

How to Protect Against Ebola

Maintaining sanitary conditions is the best way to stay protected. The virus needs an open wound or to come into contact with a mucous membrane, such as those found in your eyes and nose. What this means is that if you have the Ebola virus on your hands and you rub your eye you can transmit the virus to yourself. If you have an open wound, even the slightest of cuts or torn skin, the virus can infect you if you come into contact with soiled linens, blood or even vomit. According to the CDC, some of the basic ways to protect against Ebola are to:

  • Frequently washing your hands using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use infection control standards when dealing with potentially infected material.
  • If possible, avoid contact with potentially infectious waste, especially when dealing with people who are ill.
  • Avoid contact with bats and non-human primates. Do not eat bats or primates.
  • Seek medical help if you become sick with a fever greater than 101.5 and have vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, headache, muscle pain or if you have unexpected bleeding or bruising.

Casual Contact and Ebola

It might be possible for a person who is infected with Ebola to pass the disease through casual contact. That is to say that if someone with the Ebola virus on their hands touched a door nob that the next person who touched the same door nob mightpick up the virus and then contract the disease as they rub their eye or touch their nose. In light of that; people need to practice meticulous infection control measures all of the time.

Infectious Control items that you should keep at home, in your car, and on the go.

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer – it comes in gel or as a foam. It is easy to keep in your purse or pocket.
  • Latex or Nitrile gloves.
  • Heavy duty industrial strength rubber gloves for use when latex gloves are not strong enough.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol 99% for sterilization of surfaces and equipment.
  • Bleach
  • BioMask – antiviral isolation mask with ear loops – While Ebola is not airborne, its symptoms mimic other diseases that are, such as the flu.
  • An Isolation kit or a disposable isolation station kit.
  • Small or medium-sized plastic garbage can with a lid
  • Heavy duty trash bags that fit the garbage can and used for storing potentially infectious materials.
  • Disposable absorbent pads such as puppy training pads for use as a containment for body fluids such as diarrhea or vomit.
  • Disposable wash clothes or heavy duty paper towels
  • Bottled drinking water – for use in an isolation room.

Be Educated and Cautious

The best advice that anyone can give about how to protect yourself and your family from Ebola is to understand how infection control works. The symptoms of Ebola mimic many other common diseases such as the flu. Understanding infection control and isolation techniques is the best way to stay safe and healthy regardless of the diseases around you.

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3 thoughts on “Ebola: Defending against disease and pandemics”

  1. While we may never know, how the health care worked treating Duncan got infected, we do know that even with the proper gear the risk is still not zero. It could have been as simple as rubbing their eyes after removing rubber gloves. The CTC keeps saying it is not air born but I have seen the faint droplets of spittle from a sneeze and that is as close to air born as is needed for my book.
    If it starts to spread you will be able to count me as one of the people who stayed home for a month.

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