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This is your nurse off ebola

This is a healthy nurse…

This is your nurse on Ebola

… and this is a nurse on Ebola.

I know, I know, it’s nothing to joke about; people die from this.  You know what else people die from?  Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, car accidents, being thrown from a horse… need I continue?

It’s scary to think you may catch a deadly, incurable disease.  I’ll give ya that.  But there is a lot of fear perpetuated by mis-information and ignorance.  Has anyone else noticed that?  So let’s get the facts straight, here and now:

  1. How afraid should I be about Ebola?
    Ebola is actually less contagious than most other infectious diseases.  You must come in direct contact with the bodily fluids of another Ebola patient.  It can’t be contracted through physical touch.
  2. What happens if I get Ebola?
    Ebola is not what Hollywood would have you believe it is (you don’t hemorrhage out of every orifice until you die; thank you anyway, Outbreak).  About half of the people who contract Ebola die; the other half recover and live a normal life, although it may take a couple of months to feel tip top.  And about half of the people experience bleeding.  Usual symptoms resemble a terrible flu: fever, chills, aches, diarrhea and vomiting.  These symptoms appear from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and the person is contagious ONLY when symptoms are present.
  3. How exactly do you get Ebola?
    Direct contact with bodily fluids (semen, saliva, sweat, vomit, feces, blood).  To clarify, “direct contact” means the virus must get into broken skin (such as a wound) or on to your mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes, vagina).  Ebola can also “live on surfaces for a few hours, and in blood outside of the body, for up to a few days.  So there is a risk of getting Ebola by touching a contaminated surface. But you’d then need to put your hands in your mouth or eyes. This is believed to be a less common mode of transmission.”
  4. What is the treatment once you have Ebola?
    There is no FDA approved vaccine or medicine for Ebola.  Symptoms are treated as they appear (IV fluids for rehydration, maintain O2 and blood pressure, treat other infections that occur).  Experimental treatments are underway, however.  In fact, in lieu of this epidemic, the World Health Organization announced their approval of the use of unproven/experimental treatments in humans, which means the usual drug approvals process will be condensed or clinical trials skipped.  ZMapp is one such drug, which has made some headway for people with Ebola.
  5. What should I, as a healthcare worker, do to take precautions in the hospital?
    Practice and wear protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns, and eye protection.  Practice hand hygiene, don’t rub your face w/out washing your hands first, avoid exposure to soiled linens and dead bodies infected with Ebola.  Also, notify someone immediately if you think you have been exposed.  My next post will cover proper PPE donning/removal according to the CDC guidelines.

Until then, have a Happy Halloween, people.  Stay scared….

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