October 30, 2014

Ebola – Does it affect you?

Ebola – it’s all over the news at the moment…But it won’t affect us will it?

There’s a lot of technical and medical information on Ebola virus from all over the world and it is hard to know what is fact or just gossip. All you really need to know is how it can affect you, your family, your friends and your employees.

Do I need to be concerned about it spreading in UK?

In short, if you do not live in one of the higher risk areas, you do not have to be very concerned. The governments in the UK have all kinds of strategic plans in place to contain a dangerous virus and prevent an outbreak of the sort that has been prophesied. And regular meetings of the governments COBRA take place to discuss the most recent situation and if there is a need for action

The main concern seems to be how is it spread and can I catch it (or my pets)

Published information on this question is that you can only catch it if you exchange body fluids with an infected person or you eat Bush meat

The incubation period of Ebola virus disease ranges from 2 to 21 days. Usually 8 to 10 the onset of illness is sudden, with fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, sore throat and intense weakness.

The Symptoms?

The initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, muscle soreness and a sore throat.

Later down the line, though, patients experience vomiting, diarrhoea, a rash, kidney and liver failure, as well as the famous internal and external bleeding.

This external bleeding, however, does not make them look like the scary zombies of everybody’s imagination.

Some of these symptoms are very like the flu so do not panic if you have concerns and have travelled in the effect area with the possibility of swopping body fluids seek medical guidance

So what are the chances of me contracting it if

Can I travel abroad?

There is currently (at time of writing this) no direction from WHO or Foreign and Commonwealth Office FCO against travel to West Africa. Given that the chances of a traveller/tourist catching Ebola are low even if travelling to hot spots it should not put anyone off their plans in general. However it is best if you continue to monitor advice / information on countries in effected areas

The risk is highest for those caring for Ebola victims, so unless you are a healthcare worker or perhaps visiting family and staying with them the risk is extremely low.

One area of concern is if you should need hospital / medical treatment the potential risky they don’t have good quarantine arrangements in place. So it may be worth thinking about postponing a trip to somewhere like Sierra Leone especially if the chances of needing hospital treatment at some point are high.

Can I catch it on public transport trains aeroplane Etc.?

People should not be worried about sitting next to someone in a plane with Ebola. The first thing to remember is that you can’t catch it from someone who does not have any symptoms, even if they are carrying the virus. In the early stages it is not that contagious at all. As we have said Ebola is contracted through bodily secretion

Airline personal and pilot follow a strict protocol for deal with suspected contagious diseases on aircraft and are well trained in dealing with suspected cases

Even if you were sitting next to someone very ill from Ebola it would have to enter your body via mucous membranes such as your mouth, or a cut/scratch. Most experts feel that the chances of catching Ebola by sitting next to someone are incredibly low.

Can I catch it from the air?

In short, no.

Believe it or not, compared to many other viruses, Ebola is not actually “highly contagious.”

The disease is not airborne like flu. Very close direct contact with an infected person is required for the virus to be passed to another person. Infection may also occur through direct contact with contaminated bedding, clothing and surfaces.

Ebola doesn’t travel through the air in the same way that the flu does, or the chicken pox or meningitis.

So although extremely high precautions need to be observed, the virus is not going to catch on a passing breeze and infect everybody nearby.

How do I catch it is It Passes on through Touch?

Actually, it is not usually transmitted through just casual contact, such as shaking hands or brushing past someone.

An Ebola sufferer’s infected bodily secretions can get into your body via broken skin OR your mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth etc. In the case of this particular virus, the most dangerous fluids to come into contact with are blood, faeces and vomit

But how do I know who to avoid?

Well, firstly, if you’re in the UK, you should probably be more worried about catching the flu.

But if you’re desperately concerned, despite lots of scaremongering about Ebola having 21 day incubation period and people being carriers even though they feel totally healthy, actually you needn’t worry so much.

A person is VERY RARELY contagious before they themselves are suffering the symptoms of the virus.

How should I protect myself?

As you ought to be doing anyway, to protect yourself from influenza – be sure to wash your hands thoroughly, after any public outings, touching tube handrails or greeting other people with a handshake.

Wherever possible, do not bring your hands into contact with your mouth without washing them thoroughly first.

Be extremely careful when caring for sick relatives – dispose of tissues in sealed plastic bags. Wear gloves if you have to deal with soiled bed sheets or clothing.

If you have to deal with someone else’s heavy vomiting – wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Screenings at airports are a precaution

The UK has implemented a screen program at airport for those people traveling from the most effected areas area as a precaution measure

And water?

Nope. Ebola doesn’t travel via water – so you don’t have to worry about it infecting your home via the kitchen faucet!

Can my pet cat / dog catch it?

You do not need to worry about your own dog and to date there have been no links between cats and the Ebola virus.

Employers

Where employers have employees traveling to effected areas they should review there travel risk assessment  and discuss arrangement with staff  for dealing any emergency relating to Ebola including possible isolation on return to UK Employers should consider alternatives to travel  video conference / live chat systems

Schools / Travel arrangements for pupils

Schools with students from different countries may be facing concerns from parents about whether their child should be associating with, pupils from countries affected by Ebola.

Foreign students themselves may be experience concerns over contagion after arrival  or family members at home k.

Communication is key to reassuring all concerned on how the school is dealing with the current situation

Where student may wish to return home for holiday break periods to countries that may be affected   or neighbouring countries (i.e. Sierra Leone or wider West Africa), will need to follow the latest advice from the UK Government, and from their own government back home. This could, potentially, mean that they are advised not to travel home (in which case alternative supervision arrangements will need to be made for them) or they may face screening or other restrictions when returning to the UK.

If you need Health & Safety advice, get in touch now.

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