Ebola in the US: The importance of proper infection control
With the first case of Ebola in the United States many are asking – what should I do?
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden, assures the public “I have no doubt that we’ll stop this in its tracks in the U.S.” and that “The United States has a strong health care system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities.”
The tricky part about the Ebola virus is the symptom similarities to meningitis, cholera or other viral hemorrhagic fevers. These symptoms may appear within 2-21 days after infection and some of these are similar to flu symptoms. The symptoms are:
- High fever
- Joint/muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
When someone is sick with Ebola, the virus can be spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with:
- Other body fluids, such as urine, feces, saliva, sweat, vomit, breast milk and semen
- Objects (such as needles and syringes) that are contaminated with the virus
Handling unsterilized needles or medical equipment that were used by the infected person, having unprotected sex with an infected person, and touching blood or other body fluids and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes are other ways in which a person can catch Ebola.
Ebola is not transmitted through the air, food or water.
One of the main reasons for such massive spread in the countries affected is lack of proper infection control during the early stages of infection. Additionally, practicing best practices for early recognition of this virus, proper isolation procedures are also pivotal to ensure it doesn’t spread. Infection can also occur post-mortem, leaving family members and other medical personnel at even more risk, especially if post-mortem procedures don’t include infection control.
So what exactly is “infection control”? In addition to best practices to avoid any virus that is not airborne, it includes proper sanitary restroom cleaning, proper hand hygiene and avoiding sick individuals.
The CDC recommends the following for hospitals that have a patient infected with the Ebola virus. (Read the entire guidelines page here.)
- Patient isolation.
- Use of gloves, gown, shoe covers, eye protection and eye mask.
- Aerosol-generating procedures.
- Environmental infection control (proper cleaning of surfaces that have been covered in body fluids or tissues). This cleaning should be done with correct bodily protection.
Sealed Air (part of Diversey Care and a Coverall partner), recommends use of hospital-grade disinfectants, wipes and multi-surface cleaners against enveloped viruses, including Ebola.
What to Remember
- You CANNOT get Ebola through the air, water or food. Click here for an infographic provided by the CDC.
- Remember to practice correct hand hygiene and surface cleaning practices. Wash your hands regularly, pay attention to the surfaces you touch and avoid people who are sick. Click here for a free hand washing poster – spread the importance of hand hygiene.
- Pay attention to how your body feels. Even if you just have the common cold, take your health (and others) seriously.
- The Ebola virus is not airborne.
- Do not panic. Stay informed. For more information about the Ebola virus and its risk visit the CDC website.