The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) has been monitoring the Ebola outbreak since it began earlier this year and will continue to do so – particularly in light of the first case being confirmed in the U.S.
The department is in continuous contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), county and municipal health departments across the state, hospital and medical associations, individual healthcare facilities, EMS providers, and other partners to monitor the situation. The PADOH will support the investigation of any suspect cases and provide guidance and information on infection control protocols and procedures to ensure the health and safety of all healthcare workers, patients, visitors and the general public.
Additionally, PADOH continues to share important information and CDC advisories and alerts to healthcare professionals to heighten awareness of possible cases, request reporting of any suspect cases and reiterate infection control procedures.
The Ebola Outbreak
Where has Ebola been reported?
Ebola viruses are found in several African countries. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa. The natural reservoir host of Ebola virus remains unknown. However, on the basis of evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is animal-borne and that bats are the most likely reservoir. Four of the five virus strains occur in an animal host native to Africa. West Africa is currently experiencing history’s largest outbreak of the disease in the countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
On September 30, 2014, the United States confirmed its first case of Ebola in a person who had traveled to Dallas, Texas from Liberia. The patient did not have symptoms when leaving West Africa, but developed symptoms approximately four days after arriving in the U.S. and died from the disease on October 8. The CDC and other public health officials are working to prevent the spread of this disease by identifying people who had close contact with the patient and monitoring them for several weeks.
Ebola can ONLY be spread by directly touching an infected person or animal’s skin, blood or body fluids – you cannot get the virus simply by being near someone who is infected. Because the exposed person did not have any Ebola symptoms during his travel from West Africa to Texas, the CDC is not recommending monitoring for people on the same commercial airline flights.
How can I protect myself against Ebola?
If you are in or plan to travel to any of the African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, you can protect yourself by doing the following:
• Washing hands frequently
• Avoiding contact with anyone’s blood and body fluids – particularly someone who is sick
• Not handling items that may contain an infected person’s blood or body fluids
• Not touching the body of someone who has died from Ebola
• Not touching bats, monkeys, gorillas or chimpanzees or their blood and fluids
• Not eating “bushmeat” (wild animals that are hunted for food)
• Avoiding hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated
• Seeking medical care immediately if you develop Ebola symptoms
. Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor
What should I do if I think I might have Ebola?
The only people at risk in the current outbreak are those who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone in the past three weeks and might have had direct contact with a person showing symptoms or an animal infected with Ebola.
If you recently traveled from one of the affected African countries and develop fever and/or other Ebola related symptoms within three weeks after leaving that country, limit your contact with other people, seek medical care right away, and tell your doctor about your recent travel. Make sure you call the doctor’s office or emergency room before going and tell them about your recent travel and symptoms so that arrangements can be made, if needed, to prevent others from becoming sick.
For Healthcare Professionals