Pandemics — Ebola and Enterovirus in the News
We’ve been hearing a lot on the news over the last few weeks about two virulent diseases. Because of these stories, and with cold and flu season well underway here in North America, a quick blog reminder about universal precautions seemed in order.
According to the CDC, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest in history. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have a total case count of over 7,000. Symptoms of this form of hemorrhagic fever include:
- Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
For most readers of this blog, exposure to the virus is highly unlikely unless they have recently traveled to the affected region. The CDC has posted Warning – Level 3 Travel Notices recommending that people avoid non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone at this time. They advise that travel to these countries be postponed until further notice. CDC’s recommendations against non-essential travel are intended to help control the outbreak and prevent continued spread in two ways: to protect the health of U.S. residents who would be traveling to the affected areas and to enable the governments of countries where Ebola outbreaks are occurring to respond most effectively to contain the outbreak.
Although we are sure to learn more about the isolated incidents of Ebola now occurring in the U.S., the Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a severe respiratory illness that usually targets children, is much more likely to cross our paths. As of mid-September, 29 states and the District of Columbia are reporting confirmed cases of EV-D68, which can be especially dangerous for children with asthma.
Symptoms of EV-D68 include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing. As with so many viruses, EV-D68 is “spread from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others,” according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends these preventative measures for you and your children:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
That’s good advice no matter what virus is making the rounds in your area. It also applies in the workplace as well as the home. Our ASHI and MEDIC First Aid programs stress the importance of universal precautions in those situations that can potentially expose you to infection. We do a deep dive into keeping everyone in the workplace safe in our bloodborne pathogen classes, so if your team has a risk of exposure due to the nature of your business, get in touch with one of our training centers for a class!
Want to get your workplace up-to-speed specifically on pandemics? Summit offers Pandemics: Understanding the Unknown, a course that focuses on the facts versus the hype to inform people and prevent hysteria in the event of an outbreak. Incorporate the prevention methods that are covered in Summit’s Video/DVD training program into both your work and home life and you will be prepared for a pandemic rather than caught up in its pandemonium.
And at the very least, stock up on that hand sanitizer as cold and flu season continues!