Ebola outbreak unlikely to spread to New Jersey despite major airport hubs

Ebola outbreak unlikely to spread to New Jersey despite major airport hubs

By Rebecca Forand, South Jersey Times

A deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa is unlikely to spread to the United States, medical personnel say, but preparations and precautions are being taken in New Jersey — just in case.

Ebola, a deadly virus that included flu-like symptoms that escalate to high fevers and hemorrhaging, was first identified in 1976. The current outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria is the most severe in history, with more than 1,300 cases and more than 800 deaths being reported.

There is no cure for the virus. Health care workers treat the symptoms with fluids, making sure the patient is not dehydrated and their electrolytes are up, according to Dr. Katharine Garnier, the director of Student and Employee Health at Rowan University, but the mortality rate remains high — above 50 percent.

"It's basically supportive care," Garnier said. "Because of the hemorrhagic part of this, they sometimes get bleeding from all internal and external sites."

There have not yet been any reported cases of Ebola in the United States, but two patients — U.S. aid workers who were infected while working in West Africa — are being transported to a high-security ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone warning against all non-essential travel.

In New Jersey, risk of anyone contracting the disease are slim, but the Department of Health has sent a health alert message to local and county health departments, hospitals, primary care clinics and other health care providers about the recent outbreak, according to Donna Leusner, director of communications for the DOH. 

"It reminds providers to be alert for signs and symptoms of the disease and reminds them that they are required to immediately report to the local health department any suspect case of Ebola virus in an individual with symptoms and recent travel history (within 21 days) to West Africa," she wrote in an email.

With the Philadelphia and Newark International airports both being massive hubs of travel in or near New Jersey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Global Migration and Quarantine and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are monitoring for suspected cases of the disease.

Originating in animals, Ebola can spread person-to-person through bodily fluids including blood, saliva, sweat, breast milk and semen. 

The biggest risk of infection is to those working in health care who deal with patients, even those in isolation, on a one-on-one basis. 

In order to minimize risk, everyone is encouraged to wash their hands often, to avoid sharing eating utensils and drinking cups and avoid having sexual relations with anyone infected or possibly infected.

Anyone who has been to West Africa should monitor their own health for at least 10 days. Monitoring should continue for 21 days if there has been a possible exposure. If any symptoms are detected, you should go to a doctor immediately. 

Risk of the disease spreading within the U.S., however, is very low, Granier believes, thanks to the fact that the disease is not native to the area and the high protection rate taken by the country's health care workers.

"The virus itself if native to Africa. It's not really seen in the United States. It would have to be brought here," she said. "Unless you're traveling to West Africa, and I wouldn't do that casually at this point — you don't have much risk."


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Date Published: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 17:00
Source URL: Ebola outbreak unlikely to spread to New Jersey despite major airport hubs