UPDATE: Ebola continues to be a major international public health concern and now the first known transmissions of the virus have occurred in the U.S. A healthcare worker has contracted the disease from a patient she took care of in a hospital in Texas and, as of October 15, a second healthcare worker has tested positive. The original patient had traveled from Liberia and was staying with relatives when he became ill. That patient has since died.
There is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) team deployed to the Texas hospital with experience in infection control, contact tracing, and laboratory testing, including nurses from Emory Hospital who have worked with ebola patients. The situation in Texas is evolving and the CDC team is prepared to assist the healthcare system in Texas deal with additional healthcare personnel who become symptomatic.
Hospitals must provide the necessary patient care and laboratory testing while protecting those who care for patients. The CDC and state public health authorities continue to work with U.S. hospitals to ensure that biosafety and biocontainment protocols protect healthcare workers and those handling and processing laboratory specimens from patients with ebola. Critical steps to prevent spread of the deadly virus include following the proper procedures for putting on and taking of the personal protective equipment and thorough handwashing.
For more information on ebola testing, read the original article below.
Additional webpages with some of the latest information include:
Original article published August 27, 2014:
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola an international public health emergency on August 8, 2014, and the number of cases of Ebola continues to rise in West Africa. As of August 22, there have been over 2600 cases and nearly 1500 deaths reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. There is some evidence that these numbers may be vastly underestimated, says WHO in one of its latest updates on the outbreak. (For the latest numbers, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa web page.)
In the U.S., Ebola is not a significant public health threat. There have only been two cases in healthcare workers returning to the U.S. for treatment from areas where the virus is common (endemic). However, Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases, with up to 90% of infected people dying of the disease. Currently, there is no therapy and there has been limited experience in caring for people infected with this virus in the U.S. Therefore, the CDC is providing guidance to U.S. hospitals, clinics, and laboratories on prevention and safety measures for controlling spread of the disease. Both of the U.S. patients have recovered and have been released from the hospital. Tests show that they do not have circulating Ebola virus and are not contagious.
Ebola is not an airborne virus; it is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person, such as vomit, stool, blood, or sweat. Signs and symptoms usually appear 2 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and may include fever, severe headache, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and unexplained bruising and bleeding. People who are ill with the virus can recover, but they need intensive supportive care and are usually hospitalized. Though there are no established protocols for treatment, some experimental therapies are being investigated.
During an outbreak, the people who are at most risk of contracting Ebola are the ones likely to come in contact with contaminated body fluids, such as healthcare workers, family members, friends, and other close contacts of infected patients. Efforts by global health organizations focus on controlling transmission of the virus in these groups. Recommended safety measures include isolating patients, wearing protective clothing, sterilizing equipment, and regular use of disinfectants. All of these aim to prevent contact with contaminated body fluids.
Confirming cases through laboratory testing and tracking the spread of the disease continue to be important tools in containing the spread of Ebola. Identifying and monitoring people who have come into close contact with infected individuals has been credited with keeping the case count low in Nigeria. This has been accomplished with the help of the CDC, according to WHO.
"Practical on-the-ground intelligence is the backbone of a coordinated response. WHO is mapping the outbreak, in great detail, to pinpoint areas of ongoing transmission and locate treatment facilities and supplies," says WHO. "CDC is equipping the hardest-hit countries with computer hardware and software that will soon allow real-time reporting of cases and analysis of trends. This also strengthens the framework for a scaled-up response."
In declaring the public health emergency, WHO recognized the Ebola outbreak as an "extraordinary event." International coordinated efforts between WHO, the CDC, and other global agencies are essential for helping to stop further spread of the disease among countries.