Understanding Ebola and Ebola Safety

Northwestern Medicine
Infectious Disease October 09, 2014
Recently, the news has been filled with stories about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and its potential risk to Americans. Several U.S. citizens with confirmed active Ebola have been treated in the U.S. and most recently, a patient died from the disease while being treated in a Texas hospital. 

While news reports suggest that some members of the public are concerned about their risk of possible exposure to Ebola, it is important to remember that Ebola cannot be spread through the air and is not spread by coughing or sneezing. The virus is only transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual who is symptomatic. Because the virus is not airborne, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health experts across the country, say it does not pose a serious risk to Americans. Still, hospitals in the U.S. are preparing for possible Ebola patients.  

Northwestern Medicine® has taken extensive steps to make sure it is prepared to safely care for patients with Ebola-like symptoms. Ebola may be suspected in patients who have had recent travel to the affected countries in West Africa* and have symptoms such as fever, prolonged nausea, and excessive vomiting and diarrhea. 

Regardless of a patient’s point of entry into our health system — such as an outpatient immediate care clinic or one of our hospitals — our clinical teams are prepared to recognize the symptoms, administer supportive care and isolate potential cases to prevent the risk of exposure to others. The CDC maintains that there is a very minimal risk of an epidemic effect in the U.S. due to Ebola.

The recent Ebola news serves as a reminder that there are areas of the world in which various diseases are common that are uncommon or nonexistant in America. Before traveling outside the U.S., travelers should educated themselves about possible health risks and know what health-related monitoring may be needed upon their return.

If you are planning to travel to Western Africa, you can help protect your health by being mindful of Ebola symptoms such as fever, stomach distress and severe muscle pain for 21 days, or three weeks, after your travel. If you call for a medical evaluation, you should always let your healthcare provider know if you have traveled internationally.


Visit the CDC website* to learn more about maintaining your health and safety when traveling.   

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