Ebola: What You Need to Know, from Maplewood’s Health Officer

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We asked Maplewood’s Health Officer Robert Roe what people should know about the Ebola virus, and what precautions they should take.

The current Ebola outbreak in west Africa, which began in March, is the largest and most complex since the virus was first discovered in 1976, with more cases and deaths than all other Ebola outbreaks combined, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The virus has now come to the United States, with a Liberian man dying of the disease at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and two Texas nurses who treated him contracting the virus, according to CNN Health. In addition, a doctoral student at Yale University is currently in isolation at Yale-New Haven Hospital and is being tested for Ebola.

Closer to home, NBC Chief Medical Correspondent Nancy Snyderman issued a public apology for violating a voluntary confinement agreement she and her crew had made with the NJ Department of Health and the Princeton Health Department after they returned from covering the outbreak in Africa.

Roe said he had received a few inquiries about the disease from Maplewood residents. He put together the following statement:

Ebola is certainly a dangerous deadly disease with a high percentage death rate. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of the countries in Africa that are most affected. I give full credit to the brave health care workers willing to risk their lives in the fight against this disease in these countries. We in the US and other countries with modern medical science skills need to continue to help these countries and the Ebola victims.

While the United States and especially the medical community needs to learn and adapt to new safety procedures, the fight is really in Africa. We and other of the world nations need to help them with supplies, emergency hospitals, medical training and medical care. By doing this we will help reduce an already tragic situation and prevent further devastation. This will have the added effect of helping us in reducing cases in the U.S.

I am very concerned about how first responder EMTs and emergency room personnel and even local physicians will respond when they may be faced with a patient with possible Ebola virus. The usual “universal precautions” used in medical practice may not be sufficient. Clearly our usual medical safety procedures need to be improved.

There is a lot to be learned and new information about this disease seems to be coming in daily. I urge people to follow legitimate medical sources of information and not be swayed by persons who are reacting in an inflammatory manner.

As an immediate measure, I urge everyone to get a flu shot.

As a matter of perspective, we have been faced with dangerous communicable diseases before. I think that we will once again be able to find control measures, cures and prevention methods for this virus. We all need to respond as rational thinking and compassionate adults.

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