“We are very worried about Ebola,” said Custer County Public Health Nurse, Gail Stoltzfus, who also added that “the more we learn from Texas and their mistakes, the more prepared we are.”
Though the mysterious, foreign virus has flown its way into the States, Stoltzfus conveyed confidence that it wouldn’t cause the same outbreak that it has in West Africa.
“We are worried, but there are other things to worry about more,” Stoltzfus said.
She admitted that there would likely be pockets of Ebola outbreak in Colorado, as well as in other states, and that an infected individual infects an average of two people.
“There are other diseases out there where sick individuals can infect up to an average of eight people,” Stoltzfus said.
Ebola transmission in Texas has consisted of possible improper removal of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“Putting the protective gear on is one thing,” Stoltzfus said, “but taking it off is another. Personnel in Texas may not have been trained as they should be in handling this kind of situation.”
Stoltzfus wants to inform the public that training sessions are scheduled with EMS and clinic staff to properly put on and remove PPEs. If Ebola comes to Custer County, local medical personnel are anticipated to be better prepared than those in Texas.
“We will have EMS and clinic staff practice putting on and taking off PPEs,” Stoltzfus said, “and using the buddy system to help.”
Though nothing is guaranteed on the occasion that a deadly infectious disease like Ebola comes to the area, Stoltzfus stated that “we will do our best, and that is all we can do.”
Stoltzfus emphasized that Ebola is something to take seriously, but the preparations being taken for the African virus will also help prepare medical staff to deal with other problems that may come instead.
“We need to put this situation into the correct perspective,” Stoltzfus said, “and follow what the Center for Disease Control tells us to do. We are learning from mistakes that are being made, and that will help us in the future to face Ebola or other diseases.”
More predominant in the States than Ebola is the Enterovirus. This virus has confounded doctors and scientists, and though it is categorized as a new strain of the common cold, it is presenting polio attributes such as permanent limb paralysis.
“Though this virus is targeting children and young teens,” Stoltzfus said, “and has caused polio-like paralysis, it is not a new polio strain.”
The Enterovirus has been tested and returned negative for polio. It has also been tested and disproved to be a mutated strain of the West Nile virus.
“The paralysis that we are seeing come from children who have both had Enterovirus and not had it,” Stoltzfus said. “Correlation is not causation. We aren’t sure what is causing the paralysis.”
Adults are also getting the Enterovirus, but none have yet been paralyzed.
To be protected against Ebola, the Enterovirus and all other viruses this flu season, Stoltzfus insists that everyone be diligent in washing their hands.
“Wash your hands, carry hand sanitizer,” Stoltzfus said. “Don’t touch your face, especially your eyes, nose or mouth. Stay away from sick people, and if you are sick then stay home.”
When asked if people should wear masks, Stoltzfus stated that the CDC has not yet advised the public to do so.
“Masks are completely ineffective,” Stoltzfus explained. “Unless you have a poor immune system because you are going through chemotherapy, or are prone to sickness, then you might want to wear a mask as a precaution.”
The last message that Stoltzfus wishes to pass on to the public is that people should be vigilant, but that she “is not panicking.”
“There is no reason to panic,” she said. “Get your flu shot at the Public Health Office and that can protect you from other flu strains, as well as boost your immune system.”
Anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea should report to the clinic immediately. Anyone with red eyes, raised rashes, chest pain and cough, severe bruising or bleeding from the eyes should call 911.
Anyone with common-cold symptoms, such as fever, runny/stuffy nose and sneezing, cough, wheezing, chest congestion and difficulty breathing should consult their doctor or visit the local clinic.
For more information, contact Stoltzfus at the Public Health Office at 783-3369. It is also advised that online news coverage of the Ebola epidemic be read with caution and fact checked with a second legitimate news source before being believed. The caution is recommended due to the rash of Ebola hoaxes being published online.
– J.E. Ward