Is Los Angeles Ready for Ebola?
A second hospital in the United States has admitted a patient with Ebola symptoms, said the Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. on Friday. This follows the Tuesday announcement of the first Ebola case diagnosed in the U.S., in Dallas, Texas.
West Africa is experiencing the largest Ebola outbreak in history. There have been more than 7,000 cases and 3,300 deaths since March, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“The outbreak in West Africa is continuing,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Interim Health Officer for LA County. “The news is it hasn’t been contained, so we expect it to increase in size into the near future, so there’s ongoing concern that travelers from West Africa would go to other locations and [spread the disease], so it’s a possibility.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has been notifying local communities about the symptoms and risks of the disease to prepare for the possibility of an Ebola outbreak.
“What we’re also doing is reaching out to the physicians in Los Angeles County, to the hospitals, so that people working in emergency departments, working in primary care, when somebody comes in and they have a fever, they should say, ‘Have you been in West Africa in the last 21 days?” And if they have been, we can quickly get them into isolation,” said Gunzenhauser.
Ebola is not airborne. It is spread through contact with bodily fluids. A suspected patient must be given a private hospital room with a private bathroom. Healthcare workers need to wear face protection and gloves.
“We are stopping Ebola in its tracks in this country,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. in a press release on Wednesday.
“We can do that because of two things: strong infection control that stops the spread of Ebola in health care; and strong core public health functions to trace contacts, track contacts, isolate them if they have any symptoms and stop the chain of transmission.”
The Ebola virus is very deadly. The fatality rate is about 50 percent, according to the World Health Organization.
Symptoms usually begin from 2 days to 21 days after exposure. They include fever, headache, stomach pain, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and unexplained bleeding or bruising.
There is no treatment or vaccine for the disease. Health care workers typically keep patients hydrated, treat secondary infections, and monitor blood loss, since the disease can prevent the patient’s blood from clotting.