How Serious is the Risk from Ebola?

With all the news coverage of the Ebola scare in recent weeks, many workplaces and individuals are wondering how and if they should prepare for this new threat. In part two of a 3-part series, we look at some facts and figures about Ebola. How is the disease spread, and how quickly? What are some practical steps YOU can take to minimize the risk of exposure? Read on to find out!

The Epidemic Scare

Just how contagious is Ebola? Listening to many news reports, you might think it is more contagious than most viruses, but the truth might surprise you. According to the CDC:

Ebola is not spread through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low.

The CDC goes on to say that the United States public health systems are well prepared to deal with isolated instances of Ebola. Various studies have been conducted on Ebola, and most experts agree a typical patient will only infect 1-2 other individuals with the virus.  Compared to other viral diseases, such as Influenza, that is a fairly low number.

So why has the outbreak of Ebola sparked such a scare? Unlike other infectious diseases like Influenza, the death rate for those infected with Ebola is very high (reports vary anywhere from 50% to 90%). The question remains then, how serious is the threat of Ebola, and how can a workplace protect against it?

How is it Spread?

Ebola is spread through blood and other body fluids. In addition, a person is not contagious until they have begun to exhibit symptoms. Normal precautions should be followed when around someone who has signs of sickness, including proper hand-washing and avoiding contact with body fluids. In the workplace, it is important to have PPE such as disposable gloves and masks available, so that workers don’t put themselves at risk while trying to help others.

Steps to Take

The CDC offers some helpful information about minimizing risks and recognizing signs of Ebola. Here are their tips for staying safe:

  • Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of any person, particularly someone who is sick.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (temperature of 100.4°F/ 38.0°C) and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
    • Limit your contact with other people until and when you go to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else besides a healthcare facility.

For more tips from the CDC, check out this webpage. It is frequently updated as the CDC tracks the spread of Ebola in the US.

In the final part of our 3-part series, we discuss how to safely put on and take off PPE to avoid contamination. Check it out here!

Leave a Reply