It has been a few months now since America had its first Ebola Virus (EVD) patient. In that time, we have had several more. The first two patients were planned for. After those two however, we had four confirmed cases that were unplanned. All of those cases have taught us a few things about what we are dealing with and has reaffirmed that this virus is dangerous and should not be underestimated. It has also taught us, as we suspected, that this virus it not nearly as dangerous on American soil as it is in the three African nations.
This past week, I was lucky enough to sit in on a Center for Disease Control (CDC) meeting that focused on EVD. As you would suspect, it was a long, dry, boring lecture that left me wishing I had just gone straight to work instead. The lecture also made a few things very clear and provided my EMS crew with wonderful knowledge in regards to EVD.
The first point we covered was perspective. Africa is a very large mass of land. By comparison, the three affected nations (Sierra Leon, Liberia, and Nigeria) are a very small percentage, meaning most people traveling from Africa are not infected with EVD. An additional point for our perspective is the fact that, in Africa, there is anywhere from a 60% to a 90% rate of mortality, while in America, there is a 17% mortality rate at this point, based on the 6 patients, one of whom died. Continuing with perspective, every Ebola patient will infect two other people (Mr. Duncan was right on with that), while every flu patient will infect 10 other people. With that knowledge, we can see how the spread of Ebola is unlikely.
So, based on perspective, there will be few travelers from Africa that have Ebola and if they do, there is a good chance that the virus will not spread. But how do we keep the sick travelers from interacting with other people here in America, and how do we keep the healthcare workers (all of the patients except one traveler who infected two others were healthcare workers) from becoming sick with Ebola?
The recommended actions published by the CDC for handling EVD patients has been updated after the two nurses in Texas were infected. This is an attempt to make every healthcare worker capable of protecting themselves and others from spreading this disease. In addition to new protocols, the CDC has assigned risk categories to all travelers and Americans. Everyone who is “high risk” or “some risk” is monitored for travel and/or quarantined. The categories are:
- High Risk: These are people who did not use personal protective equipment (PPE) while handling a person or body with confirmed EVD as well as those who lived in the same home as a person who was confirmed to have EVD. In all cases, people in the high risk category must have been around the EVD patient while the patient was showing symptoms.
- Some Risk: These are people who did wear the proper PPE while they were in direct contact with a confirmed EVD patient who was symptomatic at the time. Some risk also includes people who were in close contact (defined by the CDC as less than 1 meter) with confirmed EVD patients who were symptomatic. The contact must be for a prolonged period of time. The CDC, however, does not define “prolonged period of time.”
- Low Risk: These are people who have been to a country with confirmed cases of Ebola in the last 21 days. It can also include people who did not have PPE on when they were in close proximity (1 meter) to a patient in the early stages of EVD. A person is also considered low risk if they were on the same plane as a person who had EVD when the patient was in the early stages.
- No Risk: This is for people who had contact with a person who had no symptoms of EVD. It can also include people who have traveled to an infected country but it has been more than 21 days.
People who are “High Risk” are continuously monitored while “Some Risk” individuals are expected to self-monitor. In addition to monitoring suspected EVD carriers, all flights from any of the infected nations must be screened before leaving the country, monitored in flight, and screened when they land in America. The ONLY airports these people can fly to are JFK, O’Hare, Dullas, Hartsfield, and Newark. All of these people will be monitored for 21 days.
After going to this meeting, it has made me more at ease. Yes, this is a very bad disease and yes, it has spread more than we originally expected it to. However, here in America, it is hard to spread and we are getting closer to a cure every day.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.