Health officials prepared if Ebola virus came here


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Ebola virus outbreak in Africa is a world-wide concern, and now the CDC’s issued a travel alert for three countries. While health officials said the chances of the virus reaching northeast Indiana are extremely low, they are prepared to react if someone in the area contracted it.

The outbreak in parts of Africa has killed more than 700 people and sickened 1,300 more since March. The Ebola virus is spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids or contact with a contaminated surface, Dr. Deb McMahan said. The virus, she said, can live on a surface for a few hours.

Two Americans who contracted Ebola are on the way to be treated in the United States. There are strict guidelines if an infected person is in an American hospital.

“The infection control practices of that hospital will be critical. That guidance has been out there from the CDC. For every person who helps this patient from health care workers to food workers and laundry they have infection control measures implemented to prevent infection from this patient,” Dr. McMahan, the Allen County Health Commissioner, said.

McMahan said if someone feels sick, it’s always important to tell the doctor about any travel, even if it was several months ago.

“People have to know where you’ve been. No matter where you travel you live in a living environment,” she said. “If is any concern, the [patient] would be put in quarantine and the health care provider would contact the health department and we’d work with the state and federal health officials to do a proper investigation.”

McMahan said the health department and health care providers have good communication and she’s confident they would be prepared if someone came to them with symptoms of Ebola.

“You’d be surprised how many different scenarios they deal with on a regular basis when dealing with people potentially infected with other things from traveling,” she said.

For travel outside the United States, health officials recommend first checking for travel or health warnings on the CDC’s travel website. 

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