Unless you have been living under a rock in the last few weeks, you have undoubtedly heard about the “great threat of ebola.” In the midst of all the panic, very little has been discussed about what ebola really is. So what is ebola?
Ebola is a virus that is transmitted through blood or other bodily fluids. In order to for the virus to spread, infected blood, vomit, urine, feces, saliva, sweat or semen from an infected person must come in direct contact with the broken skin (like a cut or scrape) or mucous membrane (like eyes, nose or mouth) of someone else. The virus cannot be spread through the air.
Symptoms of ebola include fever, severe headache, general body pain, and weakness. In later stages, patients develop vomiting, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and massive amounts of bleeding. So far, there have been several thousand deaths from ebola in Africa. While ebola is a very serious and potentially fatal virus, deaths in Africa have been greatly increased due to lack of education and hygiene in affected areas. The spread of this awful virus can be greatly reduced with some relatively simple education for the general public.
Here are a few helpful tips for keeping yourself and your family safe during this scary time.
1) Wash your hands- This is the number one rule for a reason. Washing your hands is the absolute best way to lower the risk of infection. This is why there is such a focus on hand washing in healthcare facilities across the country. Many, many studies have shown that washing hands is the best way to prevent the spread of disease. Wash your hands frequently. If you think you have washed your hands enough, go wash them again. Use warm water and a generous amount of soap. Rub hands together, making sure to wash under your nails and between your fingers.
2) Keep your hands to yourself- I had a great instructor in nursing school who always told her students “If it’s wet and not yours, don’t touch it barehanded!” While this rule is mainly for healthcare workers, it can also apply to the general public. This disease is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. Avoid touching anything such as tissues or public bathroom seats which appear to be contaminated.
3) Avoid large crowds- Try to avoid large groups such as crowded shopping malls, concerts, airplanes and sporting events as much as possible. Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, not through the air. While simply being next to someone who has ebola doesn’t mean you will catch it, I think we’ve all had that moment where the guy on the bus next to us starts sneezing and coughing without covering his mouth. With this also being flu season, it is best to stay around from large groups and potential sources of infection.
4) Stay healthy- When talking about infections and diseases of any kind, it is always true that those who are unhealthy to begin with will be more negatively affected. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise, take daily vitamins and routinely see your healthcare provider to ensure you maintain a baseline level of health.
Above all else, remember that life is a gift. Love on your family and friends and enjoy life to the fullest. And remember the healthcare workers caring for those affected by ebola. Keep these brave men and women in your thoughts and prayers during this trying time.