US and Ebola: Impacts and Prevention (and other communicable diseases)

As we enter into the typical flu and cold season, we find ourselves facing an anything-but-typical pandemic threat: Ebola.  Ebola has historically been a regionalized endemic to African nations, though the scale and spread of the most recent outbreak has turned Ebola into a pandemic.  The most recent CDC case count as of October 12, 2014, indicates there have been 8,973 cases (approximately half of these laboratory confirmed) and 4,484 reported deaths resulting from the Ebola virus.  As of this case count report, the CDC had confirmed only three travel cases here in the United Sates with one fatality confirmed as of this week. Additionally, recent news reports indicate Spain may have the first European case.

Much like common seasonal ailments, Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids (including but not limited to feces, saliva, urine, vomit and semen).  A major challenge with Ebola is that early symptoms may be misconstrued as those of the flu.  The CDC published list of symptoms of which a few keys differentiators include an elevated temperature in excess of 101.5° F, vomiting, and unexplained bleeding or bruising.  

The good news is that the first and best approach to mitigating risk factors for Ebola, much like the cold or flu, are to practice vigilance in personal hygiene and a healthy respect for possible symptoms.  Below are some keys to prevention for individuals and workplaces. 

Basic keys to prevention of Ebola and other communicable diseases:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Be conscious of and work to limit habitual touching of the face and eyes
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Employers should reinforce policies limiting employees bringing illness to work
  • Ebola specific: contact your doctor if you have an elevated fever (above 101.5° F) and have recently traveled from impacted countries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Nigeria) or if you have had a reasonable suspicion of contact with an Ebola patient.

If this outbreak expands beyond the few isolated instances here in the US, it is best to be prepared with a plan specific to your industry needs, whether you are the first line of defense in healthcare, have a condensed population (such as higher education institutions), or service the needs of travelers in the hospitality industry. 

Be sure to work with your RCM&D Client Executive to understand possible coverage options and associated with Communicable Disease Contamination policy enhancements or endorsements.

Ed is a dual board industrial hygienist and safety professional with a master’s of science in epidemiology.  His coursework in infectious disease epidemiology was completed at John Hopkins University. Please feel free to contact Ed with any questions you may have at ehanna@rcmd.com.

Additional RCM&D Ebola Blogs:

Construction

Education

General Industry

Hospitality

Long-Term Care

Real Estate

Additional Resources:

Prevention

Sequence for Putting on Personal Protective Equipment