Ebola 2015January Update
There have been over 20,000 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola to date. Progress in halting the outbreak has been slow, but in recent weeks the increase in cases in Sierra Leone has seemingly slowed and cases in Liberia have actually declined. The United Kingdom reported its first imported case in December. Click here for more information on the Ebola outbreak.
Ebola is not a new disease. It has reared its ugly head many times in the past, usually in remote African villages where, in public health lingo it burns itself out after killing the majority of those it infects. The virus is easy to transmit from person-to-person but seldom travels far from its originating village. In places that lack modern transportation, people tend to stay put particularly when they are sick.
The difference with the current outbreak is the setting. The virus has found its way into cities and is capitalizing on the luxury of large numbers of people living – and becoming sick – in very close proximity to each other. City populations are mobile thanks to maintained roads and public transportation, including airplanes. When a sick person travels, so does the virus. The condition of healthcare delivery and Public Health infrastructure in Western Africa has made eliminating the Ebola virus difficult.
How nervous should I be?
We need to respect the virus as a dangerous pathogen and understand the current situation in Western Africa, but we do not need to panic. We obviously have large cities here in the United States where viruses thrive – colds, flu, enteroviruses – but we also have a robust Public Health infrastructure, state of the art healthcare, advanced communication systems, and a media anxious to keep Americans informed.
What is being done in the US and in New York?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is assisting hospitals with infection prevention activities. It is also monitoring air travel from affected countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea). CDC has provided guidance to airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft. On the remote possibility that an ill passenger enters the United States, protocols are in place to prevent the disease from spreading.
Here in New York, the Department of Health is working with the CDC, local health departments, hospitals, EMS providers, and other agencies to monitor the Ebola situation, investigate suspect cases should they arise, and provide guidance on infection control practices.
In Ontario County, the health department receives Ebola situation updates from the CDC and the NY State Department of Health. Ontario County Public Health, the Office for Emergency Management, and our three local hospitals have emergency plans in place that address the threat of disease outbreaks of all kinds, including Ebola. These plans are reviewed, practiced, and updated often.
There is a lot of information about Ebola right at the tip of your finger. Check out the links below.
New York State Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control
World Health Organization