BY MARK SCHLACHTENHAUFEN | THE EDMOND SUN
No immediate threat from Ebola exists in Oklahoma, where health officials are working with hospitals to ensure the safety and well-being of citizens, a state official said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Texas Health Department confirmed through laboratory tests the first Ebola case diagnosed in the U.S. in relation to the outbreak occurring in Africa.
The person fell ill Sept. 24 and sought medical care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas Sept. 26, the CDC reported. After developing symptoms consistent with Ebola, he was admitted to hospital on Sept. 28.
CDC Director Tom Frieden said via a news release the ill person did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa and the CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring. Ebola is contagious only if the person is experiencing active symptoms.
According to the CDC, the 2014 Ebola outbreak is the largest in history and the first Ebola epidemic the world has ever known, affecting Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone, where 605 patients have died.
As of Monday, 6,574 total cases have been detected, according to the World Health Organization. Of that number, 3,091 patients have died. The first cases were reported March 22 in Guinea.
On Sept. 26, the CDC predicted without scaling up intervention, the number of future cases will continue to double about every 20 days, and the number of cases in West Africa will rapidly reach extraordinary levels.
Nations including the United States, however, are stepping up their response.
On Wednesday, Dr. Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist, said no immediate threat exists to Oklahoma residents from the Ebola case confirmed at the Dallas hospital.
At this time, the case is isolated and transmission of the disease cannot occur without direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected patient, Bradley said.
OSDH officials will continue to work with hospitals and provide up-to-date communication, guidance and tools to ensure the safety and well-being of citizens, Bradley said.
“We will continue to work with medical providers and hospitals regarding the use of screening procedures to rapidly identify any potential cases of Ebola virus disease to ensure that appropriate infection control procedures are implemented,” Bradley said. “These are the same procedures that hospitals are prepared to use on a daily basis.”
As part of the state’s public health emergency preparedness program, Oklahoma’s hospitals have been putting measures in place to handle a variety of emerging infectious disease threats, Bradley said.
“We are confident that our health care system can effectively respond to a case of Ebola virus disease. The case in Texas is a reminder to hospitals to review and exercise their plans,” Bradley said.
If a suspected case of Ebola is identified, the OSDH will ship specimens to the CDC for laboratory testing, ensure the patient is isolated and begin tracing close contacts who may have been exposed to the infected person.
Ebola is a serious disease, but modern healthcare infection control practices and the standard public health procedures routinely used to control other serious infectious diseases will contain Ebola, Bradley said.
Ebola symptoms include: Fever (greater than 38.6 degrees C or 101.5 degrees F), severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal (stomach) pain and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).
Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is eight to 10 days. Recovery from Ebola depends on the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.
Frieden said the CDC has been anticipating and preparing for a case of Ebola in the United States. Anyone concerned about possible exposure may call CDC-Info at 800-CDC-INFO for more information.
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