“The 2014 Ebola outbreak is one of the largest Ebola outbreaks in history and the first in West Africa. It is affecting five countries in West Africa. The outbreak does not pose a significant risk to the United States.” – update from the CDC.
The fact that this is the largest outbreak in history makes it news-worthy and significant globally, though the risk of contracting Ebola is minimal if one is not in an affected area.
Ebola first emerged in 1976 in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, which is positioned near the Ebola river, hence the disease’s name. Since that time there have been between 20-30 outbreaks of the disease with the fatality rate averaging 67%.
Originally found in animals, Ebola spreads to the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, it has been documented that the infection has spread by the handling of chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest.
Human to human transmission occurs through direct contact with the blood, secretions, bodily fluids or organs of those infected and the indirect transmission occurs by contact with items contaminated with the bodily fluids of infected people. Close contact with the body of a deceased person also plays a part in the transmission of the Ebola Virus, and men who have the disease can transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from the illness.
The death rate for Ebola is alarming, and certainly should be a red flag for anyone traveling to areas with active cases. But what about nurses and health care providers who work with relief organizations and who are at higher risk? Here’s how to be protected from this deadly disease.
- If traveling to an area with known occurrences of Ebola, the first and most important rule to follow is to practice good hand washing. It’s simple and so effective. If soap and water are not available, use a hand rub containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid buying or eating bush meat or meat prepared in the wild.
- Use precautions when encountering people with known or suspected cases of Ebola. This means avoiding all contact with bodily fluids. The infection spreads the most easily during the later phase of the disease.
- Health care providers should follow infection control precautions by using gowns, gloves, masks and protective eyewear. It is important to isolate the patient from other patients and sterilize all equipment.
- Victims of the disease should be handled and buried by specially trained teams.
Symptoms of the Ebola virus include severe headache, stomach pain, fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, vomiting and unexplained bruising or bleeding. If you are in a location or are traveling to an area with known cases of Ebola, and you or someone you see presents with these signs and symptoms, report them as soon as possible.
About the Author
Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.