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Ebola 2014 Talking Points

Main Points:

  • Emergency departments are the nation’s front line for all medical emergencies.
    • We are the first warning system in the event of a mass casualty be it bio-surveillance for a natural pandemic or a terrorist biological or chemical threat. 
    • Emergency physicians are well trained to identify and manage infectious disease and disasters, and have practiced standard protocols to protect against blood-borne pathogens, such as HIV, for at least 30 years. 

  • U.S. hospitals have equipment, expertise and infrastructure to care for patients with infectious diseases and the ability to isolate them for treatment.
    • The risk for Ebola “going viral” in the United States is extremely unlikely. Alarm by the public, while understandable, is unwarranted.

  • Most people would run in the other direction from a patient exhibiting symptoms of Ebola. Emergency physicians run toward them, asking how they can relieve suffering.

  • You can’t get Ebola from casual contact.
    • Ebola is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids. It is NOT as contagious as a cold or flu.
    • More people may die this year from the flu than from Ebola. (The CDC estimates between 3,000 to 49,000 people die each year, depending on the severity of flu season.)
    • Ebola is contagious only when the infected person has symptoms.
    • The virus is NOT airborne. It has never spread through the air. While it might be possible to catch it if someone coughed or sneezed directly on you (WHO), people who get Ebola generally do not cough or sneeze. 

  • What are the symptoms of Ebola?
    • Early symptoms are similar to the flu: fatigue, fever, headache, sore throat and joint and muscle pain. 
    • As the virus progresses, the symptoms include high fever, intense fatigue and weakness, severe headache, stomach pain — also vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure — the average is 8 to 10 days (CDC).
    • Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive medical care and the patient’s immune response. 
    • Right now, there is no cure, but scientists are working diligently to develop one.

  • Our national security depends on ERs having the resources they need and arrival of Ebola in the United States highlights some legitimate concerns: 
    • A 2014 Report Card, conducted by a task force of emergency physicians, gave America a C-minus for disaster preparedness.
    • The incredible pressure ERs have been under from increased demand and decreased resources leaves too little wiggle room for a bad flu season or terrorist attack.

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