Ebola threat low in U.S., Penn State medical personnel monitoring

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Despite reports about the growing Ebola outbreak impacting West Africa, the threat of such an outbreak in the U.S. is low due to heightened infection prevention strategies and early access to appropriate health care, according to experts.

Penn State’s University Health Services continuously monitors all infectious diseases, including the Ebola Virus Disease, and receives health notifications from multiple organizations, including the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. UHS staff and medical personnel continuously work with Penn State and community colleagues to determine risk and ensure the safety of the community. At this time, no immediate threat to the region has been identified.

The outbreak, which is concentrated in the countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and most recently Nigeria is a serious medical concern for those nations. Unlike the United States, three of the four countries are among the poorest in the world and have extremely limited access to sanitation, safe running water, soap, cleaning supplies, disinfectants and medical care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola Virus Disease, also referred to as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, is transmitted through blood and body fluids. Transmission is through close, direct contact between an infected person’s body fluids and a healthy person’s mucous membranes or non-intact skin.

Unlike many other illnesses, Ebola is not infectious until symptoms appear, and has a low risk for transmission during the early stages. This is different from other illnesses, such as the flu, which can be infectious before symptoms appear. Data indicates that the virus can be easily destroyed on surfaces with use of Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectants, including one part bleach to 10 parts water.

Strategies for preventing the transmission of this virus, as with other illnesses, include covering all coughs and sneezes, not sharing eating and drinking utensils, and frequent hand hygiene, using either soap and running water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Anyone who has traveled within the past 21 days to an area that currently is experiencing an outbreak of Ebola is encouraged to monitor for fever and symptoms daily, in accordance with CDC recommendations, found at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/monitoring-and-movement-of-persons-with-exposure.html. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to ebolavirus, though eight to 10 days is most common.

If individuals develop symptoms, they should contact their local medical provider for further instructions. Students may contact University Health Services at 814-863-4463 or go to http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/myUHS/.

For additional information:

CDC travel notices: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices

CDC questions and answers on Ebola: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/qa.html  

CDC Ebola site: www.cdc.gov/ebola

University Health Services website: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/myUHS/   

Last Updated October 17, 2014