Health Care

More | | | Editor

Fear outweighs risk of Ebola, experts say

Sunday, Aug 17, 2014 7:57 PM
Last updated Monday, Aug 18, 2014 12:49 AM
  • Follow Latest News

Dr. Diane Weems knew the virus was on their minds, so the acting director of the East Central Health District just launched into it at last week’s meeting of the Richmond County Board of Health.

“OK, does anyone have questions about Ebola?” she asked board members.

The lethal outbreak in Africa has prompted a lot of unneeded fear even among health care workers who might not understand that it takes more than casual contact to cause an infection, she said.

Augusta and Georgia have faced far bigger public health threats in the past and will likely face worse in the future, experts said.

The problem with the outbreak in West Africa, where nearly 2,000 people have been infected and more than 1,000 people have died, is that unlike past outbreaks in self-contained rural villages, this one is occurring in more populated areas, Weems said. These countries also lack a good public health infrastructure and health workers might not be taking common infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves, she said.

“We know it is not passed through the air, like a cold or like the flu,” Weems said. “It’s by infected body fluids. Health care workers who are not using good infection control, not wearing gloves, are disproportionately being impacted there, in those communities.”

In the U.S., that would not happen. “Here, we know how to protect ourselves,” Weems said.

That is the difference between Ebola and a far more contagious respiratory virus that killed hundreds of people in 2003 called severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, said Dr. Keith Woeltje, a professor of infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis and the former hospital epidemiologist at Georgia Regents Medical Center. He helped handle a suspected SARS case that came to the hospital that year.

“He had a travel history (to an outbreak area) and came in with respiratory symptoms,” he said. “We alerted the emergency department to screen people with appropriate symptoms to screen them for a travel history. He had been appropriately screened and was immediately put into isolation.”

That is what hospitals are being advised to do with travelers from those areas of West Africa who show up with a fever. In Georgia, the points of entry would be through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Inter­na­tional Airport, where there is a quarantine station for patients with fever who arrive from those areas, and the ports in Savannah and Bruns­wick, where crewmen from those areas with a fever would also be screened, said Weems, who is also Coastal Health District director in Savannah.

There is a clear difference in risk of contracting the disease even from those who are actually infected, Woeltje said.

“SARS is actually way more contagious than Ebola,” he said. “The people who have gotten Ebola really have had direct contact with blood and body fluids. So casual contact is really unlikely to spread Ebola.”

Think of sitting next to someone with either infection, Woeltje said.

“If you are sitting in a waiting room with somebody, you could have gotten SARS but you are not going to get Ebola,” he said.

Unlike a cold or flu, where the person is contagious a couple of days before symptoms show up, patients with Ebola don’t become contagious until they start showing symptoms, Weems said.

The flu is actually worse than Ebola in terms of its contagiousness and the damage it causes every year, Woeltje said.

“In terms of deaths, every year the flu season causes way more deaths worldwide than Ebola does,” he said. “And we have a vaccine for it, which granted is not perfect. But it’s still effective and we can’t get people to take the vaccine.”

In terms of emerging diseases threatening U.S. health, there are probably bigger threats, Weems said.

“(Mos­qui­to control) would tell you we have more to worry about with chikungunya,” a mosquito-borne virus that causes terrible joint pain and can persist for years, she said.

“There is a concern that chikungunya will start to spread in the U.S. like West Nile (virus) did,” Woeltje said.

But those don’t cast the terrifying specter that Ebola does at the moment, even if the more mundane things are far more likely to be a threat to U.S. health, he said.

“People are not good assessors of risk, really,” Woeltje said.

Comments (14) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/17/14 - 10:28 pm
3
3
Fear Outweighs Risk

Funny, that description also describes those who posted yesterday about the risk of contracting diseases from people who have religious objections to vaccinations for measles, mumps, typhoid fever, chicken pox, and other ailments recommended by our public health authorities.

Fear. It is a dangerous thing.

nocnoc
44929
Points
nocnoc 08/18/14 - 05:32 am
3
3
I'll bow to the Doctors years of knowledge of illnesses

as seen in the East Central Health District.

While the Doctor has more or less used the CDC carefully prepared words and phrases to alleviate / lower concerns, she is only doing her job as public official.

I invite anyone to read the NON-Public Press Release EBOLA Data, like the Canadian Ministry of Health's Internal Fact Sheet covering the mode of transmission, and persistency data that they are passing around to their doctors. ANY Bodily Fluid of an infected EBOLA person contains the Ebola Virus. Hence a sneeze, a cough etc.. need I say more

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/lab-bio/res/psds-ftss/ebola-eng.php

QUOTING The Public Health Agency of Canada
SURVIVAL OUTSIDE HOST: The virus can survive in liquid or dried material for a number of days.

Infectivity is found to be stable at room temperature or at 4°C for several days, and indefinitely stable at -70°C (6, 20). Infectivity can be preserved by lyophilisation (freeze drying) .

So remember that used gum stuck under the table, or the waitresses wet towel that cleaned a dozen tables on your your next restaurant visit)

BTW:
As far back as 1995 the CDC and WHO has known the 20 - 30-year-old age group seems to be particularly susceptible.

nocnoc
44929
Points
nocnoc 08/18/14 - 05:44 am
3
3
BTW: An interesting article in the NY Time this morning

Headline: With Aid Doctors Gone, Ebola Fight Grows Harder
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/world/africa/with-aid-doctors-gone-ebo...

Indicating the Infection rate is increasing beyond manageable levels in some areas.

Headline:
Inside Ebola hell: Mirrorman witnesses horror of bodies being tipped into truck at Africa clinic

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/inside-ebola-hell-mirrorman-witn...

A dying nurse: "Her fear that she could infect the tot through a drop of sweat or a stray tear was based on sound knowledge."

Indicating that TRAINED nursing staff know sweat and tears also pass Ebola. So why not a Sneeze or Cough?

Pops
10424
Points
Pops 08/18/14 - 08:01 am
5
2
It seems as though someone thinks

there is a need to be "politically correct" in talking about this disease.....

Tom Corwin
10005
Points
Tom Corwin 08/18/14 - 11:05 am
2
5
Noc noc

I'm not sure what your agenda is but the chances of a patient infecting someone else through sweat or tears is essentially zero.

KSL
134415
Points
KSL 08/18/14 - 12:12 pm
3
3
According to who?

According to who?

jesslgrdn
206
Points
jesslgrdn 08/18/14 - 02:05 pm
2
1
Oxford Journal Study

"As indicated by RT-PCR and ELISA antigen results from blood (data not shown), the shedding of EBOV in saliva corresponded almost exactly to the period of viremia, with the last positive saliva specimen noted at day 8 after disease onset. "
8/12 acute saliva samples positive for virus, 1/1 acute samples of tears positive, 1/8 acute skin samples positive, ZERO sweat sample, urine, vomit, or SPUTUM (respiratory fluids- this is what would transmit the virus if airborne) samples positive. One thing is certain, this disease is most contagious in the acute (symptomatic) phase. The thing that makes this bug so alarming is the very small viral load needed to become infected. The less needed, the more infectious a disease is considered.
view study on transmission and sample date here:
http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/196/Supplement_2/S142.full

corgimom
34062
Points
corgimom 08/18/14 - 02:24 pm
2
4
This nonsense that Ebola is

This nonsense that Ebola is contracted through sweat and tears is the same nonsense that was said when AIDS was discovered.

If it were transmitted through sweat and tears, there would be a mass epidemic.

Hepatitis and influenza are far more contagious and kills thousands more people than Ebola, but why aren't people freaking out about those viruses?

corgimom
34062
Points
corgimom 08/18/14 - 02:37 pm
2
2
LL, perhaps you are unaware

LL, perhaps you are unaware that vaccines are not 100% effective, and having unvaccinated children in schools puts everybody at risk.

A few years back, the school that I was in had a whooping cough outbreak- and vaccinated children caught the disease, and it started with an unvaccinated child.

There are also children and adults at schools that have impacted immune systems due to medications and illnesses. They are at high risk for contracting diseases from unvaccinated children.

It has nothing to do with fear but is absolutely real.

Why any parent would take such foolish chances with their children's life and health is just beyond me.

Angela H
5706
Points
Angela H 08/18/14 - 05:10 pm
3
2
How are you going to contract

How are you going to contract a disease from someone who has a religious objection to vaccinations, if you yourself don't have that same objection? If they are not 100% effective, then they wouldn't have protected those with objections any better than they do you.

And it seems that the W.H.O. disagrees with you Corgi. Ebola IS spread by sweat. So what organization did YOU get your information from that knows more about it than the W.H.O.?

http://www.afro.who.int/en/clusters-a-programmes/dpc/epidemic-a-pandemic...

Angela H
5706
Points
Angela H 08/18/14 - 05:12 pm
3
2
"Hepatitis and influenza are

"Hepatitis and influenza are far more contagious and kills thousands more people than Ebola, but why aren't people freaking out about those viruses?"

Perhaps because millions of people survive the flu? Name some people who survive Ebola.

Tom Corwin
10005
Points
Tom Corwin 08/18/14 - 06:04 pm
2
3
Angela H

In the current epidemic, the mortality rate is 78 percent, which is horrible, but it means some people do survive and one of the treatments tried in the past is giving antibodies from those patients. It unfortunately had limited success. The chance of getting Ebola from sweat is low, at best.

Jesslgrdn,

The same study you cited also notes there is a big difference between detecting the disease using RT-PCR and actually being able to isolate the virus from the sample. In the case of saliva, the authors believe salivary enzymes may actually degrade the virus, as they do other viruses.

nocnoc
44929
Points
nocnoc 08/18/14 - 08:40 pm
3
0
Tom Corwin AGENDA Comment

There are 3 ways to go with this problem.
PANIC, FACTUAL, UNDER RATING THE PROBLEM.

*Senseless PANIC causes overreaction

* Under Rating the Problem causes ill preparedness allowing greater spread

* FACTS allow citizen a chance to realistically assess the problem and prepare for it sensibly.

I have chosen Facts that are backed up by YEARS of Research and OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITES. Document that clearly enough state the issues involved with EBOLA its persistency and resistance to common disinfecting processes.

FACT:
BODILY FLUIDS CARRY & cause infectious spread.
A sneeze contains water droplets the spread the COLD/FLU virus
Ebola is a Virus that is spread by body fluids.

Did you miss the part in the reports that said Swabs conducted on even Arm Sweat came back positive for many days?

Did you read the part that semen from the few recovering patients still contained EBOLA virus as far out as 101 days?

Did you miss the part that said Ebola can survive at room temps for days in and on wet or DRY matter?

=======================

If I do have and agenda it is disseminating FACTS and not 1/2 truth PR statements.

BTW: I resent the ATTACK and impunning remark I present my comments with an AGENDA other than factual sources.

So I am flagging your comment for review.

Angela H
5706
Points
Angela H 08/19/14 - 06:16 am
2
0
Mr. Corwin...the chances of

Mr. Corwin...the chances of getting ebola from sweat may be low, but it it NOT "nonsense," as Corgi insists. It is NOT zero. Just pointing out, using documented sources, that she has again, as on many occasions, claimed knowledge that she does not actually have.

"I'm not sure what your agenda is but the chances of a patient infecting someone else through sweat or tears is essentially zero."

And your proof is?????

Back to Top

Top headlines

Georgia to monitor potential Ebola travelers

Georgia is one of six states that will soon begin active monitoring of all travelers from three Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa for the 21 days during which they could develop an infection ...
Search Augusta jobs