It was only a matter of time before a case of Ebola virus was diagnosed in the United States. It just so happens to be at the hospital that I practice in which is also directly across the street from my office. I can already tell you that there is a lot of concern from our patient families as well as from friends who were at the hospital today including my daughter in law. Concern is one word, but hysteria and misinformation are also words that come to mind.
When I first heard the news I too was skeptical that the person admitted to Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas would actually have Ebola virus. We have been on the “alert” for enterovirus D-68, which has also been making headlines, but Ebola was not on my “radar:. The moment that the CDC announced that the patient had indeed tested positive for Ebola virus, the news helicopters started circling above the office (not quite a many as there were for George Clooney’s wedding), but a considerable number (and noisy!).
I have fielded emails, texts and phones calls beginning this afternoon and into the night from concerned parents. The first thing to know is that Ebola virus is not transmitted as a respiratory pathogen like flu, or a cold or even enterovirus. (My daughter in law did not have a mask on as she went to her appointment this morning and she too was a bit concerned until we spoke).
The Ebola virus is transmitted when you come into contact with body fluids like saliva, blood, urines, or feces from the patient and then can enter your body through micro-abrasions or cuts. It is not a virus that you will catch if you walked by the patient or passed the patient in the hallway or the airport. Again, you must come into contact with body fluids to catch this virus.
This patient is in strict isolation within the hospital which means only certain medical personnel will even be in contact with him. The area that I practice in and the babies that we see in that hospital are in no risk for exposure to the virus. There are always infection control procedures within the hospital and they will continue to be followed.
So, there is no reason to panic. I am not afraid or concerned about continuing to work within the hospital. We will continue our regular days in the office and reassure families that they are not at risk. We pediatricians are still more concerned about airborne viruses such as RSV and flu that will cause considerable illness, and will soon begin circulating. Get your flu vaccines, wash your hands, get enough sleep, exercise and continue to have healthy family meals. Remember, keep your child ( or yourself) home from day care or school if they have a fever. This is still the best prescription to stay healthy.