By Lindsay Carey
Although there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Connecticut, the nation just witnessed the first fatal case of Ebola in the U.S. and, as the disease continues to sweep Western Africa, it’s becoming an international concern.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Ebola is “rare and deadly disease… caused by infection with one of the ebolaviruses (Ebola, Sudan, Bundibugyo, or Taï Forest virus).”
The CDC reports that the disease is spread by direct contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, and semen. It can also be spread through objects like needles, which have been in contact with infected person or animal.
It is not airborne.
A person cannot spread the virus until they have begun to show symptoms. The symptoms of Ebola appear flu-like such as a fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, lack of appetite and stomach pain. However, where the disease differs from flu-like symptoms is the occurrence of abnormal bleeding or bruising.
Connecticut is taking precautionary measures, should a case of Ebola appear in the state.
Governor Dannel Malloy declared a public health emergency for the State of Connecticut on Oct. 7, authorizing the Comm-issioner of Public Heath with the power to order the isolation or quarantine of an individual become exposed or infected with the virus.
If a person has been exposed to a virus, they may be quarantined in order to see if they become ill and prevent the possible spreading of the disease to others.
According to Shane Lockwood, director of Health for the Plainville-Southington Health District, the threat for Plainville and Southington isn’t high at this time.
“The likelihood of something local is low, without a huge transportation hub in Southington or Plainville,” said Lockwood. “There would have to be a person who might have visited and right now it would have to be someone who visited and did aid work that was involved in the outbreak, rather than them just traveling.”
In addition, Lockwood said local health officials are also taking some precaution regardless of their being cases of Ebola in the state.
“We’re looking at all of our plans, protocols and procedures that we already have in place for emergency management and just making sure that there are no gaps,” said Lockwood.
Lockwood said there are already emergency plans for other illness like the pandemic flu or small pox. Local health officials are currently reviewing those plans to insure that it will protect the people should there be an outbreak of Ebola in the States.
Lockwood said that from the state level there have been weekly conference calls with the State Health Department down to all of the directors of health to discuss any updates.
“There are currently no cases in Connecticut, but the more we can educate, the better,” said Lockwood.
However, in Western Africa, education regarding Ebola seems to be part of the problem. One of the ways the disease is being spread in Western Africa is through the food that the people are eating. For some Africans, “bush meat” is the only protein they have access to and is what they’re families have eaten for generations.
“Bush meat” can come from a wide variety of animals including rats, bats, monkeys and other animals.
However, in this area many of these animals have been infected with Ebola just like the people and the meat is often undercooked.
Another reason the Ebola outbreak is so severe is due to burial customs. According the CDC, even more people are contracting the disease because “traditional burial practices can involve multiple family members being exposed to the bodily fluids of the deceased body, which are highly contagious.”
As of right now, the CDC recommends that no unnecessary travel be made to the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the three West African countries where Ebola is most rampant.
According to the CDC, the U.S. has recently increased screening for Ebola at five U.S. airports including JFK International Airport in New York, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare, and Atlanta international airports. According to the CDC, these hospitals bring in 94 percent of travelers from those Western African countries.
The screening protocol for travelers coming from those countries includes questions about exposure, health information, and duration their stay. Travelers will also be observed for symptoms and have their temperature taken. Anyone who exhibits symptoms of Ebola during the screening will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine public health officer and may be held further monitoring.
There is no real cure to Ebola, according to Lockwood. Patients are typically treated by treating the symptoms like fever, maintaining hydration and treating any infections.
Two U.S. citizens were treated for Ebola at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta in August and survived, after receiving an experimental treatment. The two no longer have the virus in their blood. Thomas Duncan, who came to Texas from Liberia, is the lone Ebola death in America.
By Lindsay Carey