Ebola. Just a few months ago, it was a disease most people outside the medical industry knew little to nothing about. In March 2014, everything changed when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its first public statement about the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. Since that time, Ebola has found its way to the United States and into the concerns of its citizens. Now, Ebola is part of everyone’s vocabulary.
Thankfully, taking the right safety precautions and putting the simplest safety tips into practice can make the difference between discussing Ebola and experiencing Ebola. Consider the following safety tips for controlling and preventing the virus:
- Practice good hygiene. This is a good rule of thumb at any time, but especially during seasons of illness. Wash your hands often, keep your hands out of your mouth, and refrain from touching blood or other bodily fluids at all costs. Taking the same safety precautions used with any bloodborne pathogen will safeguard against Ebola.
- Monitor your health. If you have an opportunity to travel overseas or if you interact with sick patients, pay extra attention to how you feel afterward. The common symptoms of Ebola include fever, severe headache, stomach pain, and diarrhea. The incubation period for Ebola is anywhere from 2 to 21 days, so monitoring your symptoms over the course of several weeks is essential. Seek immediate attention if you think you could be exhibiting symptoms. Better safe than sorry.
- Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment. Removing the protective gear—specifically the suit—can be tricky, leading some health officials to believe that it is an active contributor to the spread of Ebola. Remember, gloves come off first. (Some professionals prefer to wear two sets of gloves so that the second layer of gloves protects the hands during the rest of the de-robing process.) Untie the gown with either bare hands or the second layer of gloves, and peel out of the suit. Consider anything that came in contact with a sick patient to be contaminated. Never take chances. As soon as you have removed the suit, properly discard everything and wash your hands with soap and water.
- Contact your health professionals if you come in contact with someone who exhibits the symptoms. If you accidentally make direct contact with blood or body fluids when working with someone who is sick, contact health officials immediately. Handling hazardous materials and hazardous waste appropriately (as covered in HAZWOPER courses) is essential to containing and avoiding the Ebola virus.
- Maintain the correct perspective. The Ebola outbreak has created pandemonium amongst medical and non-medical personnel alike. Medical crises often cause fear, excessive anxiety, and irrational responses. If this anxiety is not managed appropriately, it can contribute to poor decisions, slower response time, and essentially the spread of the disease. If followed properly, CDC’s protocol should put minds to rest, enable professionals to do their jobs, and promote safety.
Without a doubt, our collective efforts will help us to be prepared and stay safe!