EbolaThe key to dealing with the Ebola outbreak is not to panic, but to be aware about the disease, how it spreads, and how to control it. Here are some facts about the disease and preparedness tips for nurses, laboratory personnel and other frontline caregivers.

Crucial facts

  • The 2014 Ebola outbreak is caused by the Zaire ebola virus species (five known Ebola virus species)
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, and from person to person
  • Experts say that bats are the natural reservoir for the virus, and that apes and humans get infected by eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on or exposure to surfaces that have bat droppings
  • Ebola virus disease (EVD) is severe and often fatal
  • People cannot get Ebola through the air, water or food
  • The virus can be spread to others in the following ways:
  • – Direct contact with the blood or body fluids (including but not limited to feces, saliva, urine, vomit and semen) of a person who has Ebola or who has died of the disease
    – Touching infected animals, their blood or other bodily fluids, or their meat
    – Touching objects such as needles and syringes that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of an infected person or with infected animals

  • The virus from an infected person can enter another person’s body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes in, for instance, the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Signs of an Ebola infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain or bleeding
  • Persons showing symptoms of the Ebola virus should be isolated, given intravenous fluids and balancing electrolytes. Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure in these patients is also important

Preparedness checklist for clinical labs and outpatient facilities

  • Ensure that healthcare personnel can recognize a case of Ebola and are well prepared to implement appropriate infection control measures
  • Persons suspected of having Ebola should be isolated in keeping with CDC guidelines
  • Avoid contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person
  • Ensure appropriate protective clothing including masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection for caregivers as well as availability of hand hygiene supplies
  • Dressing and undressing of (protective wear) should be supervised by another trained member of the team – this is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Ensure that healthcare personnel providing care for a person sick with Ebola use dedicated medical equipment (preferably disposable, when possible)
  • Have appropriate infection control policies and environmental cleaning measures in place; review existing measures
  • Ensure proper cleaning and disposal of instruments such as needles and syringes. Instruments that are not disposable have to be sterilized before being used again
  • Provide education and refresher training for healthcare providers on Ebola virus disease symptoms, diagnosis, obtaining specimens for laboratory testing, emergency care, and employee sick leave policies
  • Report Ebola cases and know measures to take following unprotected exposures
  • Have the capacity to ask for diagnostic tests or prepare samples for shipping and testing in approved facilities
  • Have lab review procedures in place for sample collection, transport and testing of specimens from suspected Ebola patients

The CDC provides U.S. interim guidance for monitoring and movement of persons with potential Ebola virus exposure at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/exposure/monitoring-and-movement-of-persons-with-exposure.html