Health Services prepares for Ebola

Stephanie Markham , News Editor

Though the risk of infection for people at Eastern is low, Health Service is preparing to deal with potential cases of Ebola.

Sheila Baker, the medical director for Health Service, said while the community is not likely to be affected, the outbreak should still be taken seriously.

“If the risk isn’t zero, we need to prepare,” she said.

Baker said Health Service is now asking all patients with non-specific symptoms if they have traveled to countries with widespread exposure or been in contact with infected people.

Countries experiencing outbreaks currently include Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which are all located in West Africa, Baker said.

If they have Ebola symptoms and may have been in contact with the virus, the patients will then be placed in an isolation room until paramedics arrive to take them elsewhere for evaluation.

Baker said treatment as of now is just addressing the symptoms, as no vaccination is yet available.

Symptoms, which can appear two to 21 days after exposure, include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising, according to the email Baker sent to all students Thursday.

She said she sent the email to ensure the campus that Health Service is keeping up to date with news about the virus and that it is ready if any local cases should occur.

“I felt it was important that the community knows Eastern is preparing, just as other health care facilities across the country are,” she said.

Baker said the most updated and accurate information can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

According to the CDC website, Ebola’s original host species is not yet known, so scientists are still unsure as to how it spread to humans, though cases have been noted of infected primates spreading the disease to humans via meat consumption.

Once the infection is in humans, it can spread to others by infected blood or bodily fluids entering the body and from contaminated objects like needles, according to the website.

Because of how it is spread, healthcare workers are most likely to catch the disease from their patients.

This is why potential carriers would be placed in isolation while nurses wear protective equipment and only come into contact with them when they need assistance, Baker said.

Meanwhile, she said people should take precautions to avoid infection, and while travel to West Africa is not out of the question, she said careful consideration should be given.

“I wouldn’t tell someone to never travel on an icy road, but I would certainly tell them to be careful,” she said.

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].