Politicians, particularly a certain group of loudmouthed, no-nothing Republicans and certain irresponsible members of the news media, are pouncing on the latest case of Ebola in New York City, leaving NYC officials to quell unfounded fears. The patient, Craig Spoencer, is a 33 year old physician who is a volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or in English, Doctors Without Borders, returned to the US from Guinea where he had been treating Ebola patients. MSF has very specific instructions for their staff returning from Ebola infected countries.
MSF pre-identifies health facilities in the United States that can assist and manage the care of our staff members in the event they develop symptoms after their return home. This pre-identification practice is carried out in coordination with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and departments of health at state and local levels.
Upon returning to the United States, each MSF staff member goes through a thorough debriefing process, during which they are informed of our guidelines.
The guidelines include the following instructions:
1. Check temperature two times per day
2. Finish regular course of malaria prophylaxis (malaria symptoms can mimic Ebola symptoms)
3. Be aware of relevant symptoms, such as fever
4. Stay within four hours of a hospital with isolation facilities
5. Immediately contact the MSF-USA office if any relevant symptoms develop
These guidelines are consistent with those provided by the CDC to people returning from one of the Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. MSF is also implementing new federal guidelines outlining reporting requirements for people returning from Ebola affected countries.
Dr. Spencer followed those guidelines to the letter. When he noticed he had a fever of 100.3°F, not the 103°F as first reported by the media, he called MSF and remained in his apartment. MSF notified the CDC which set in motion NYC’s protocols for treating and removing a patient with a highly infectious disease to the hospital.
There was no reason for him to self-isolate prior to running a fever because the only known way to contract Ebola is direct contact with infected body secretions. The virus is not very hardy outside the human body, in that it cannot exist on a surface for more than 2 to 4 hours and is easily killed with bleach. The likelihood of contracting Ebola by anyone who came in contact Dr. Spencer is practically nil. Not even the family of the one fatality, who had close contact and were confined in the infected apartment, has become infected. The only people infected in the US have been two nurses, who had close contact with a patient in the end stages of the disease and may have come in contact with infectious body fluids because of inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) or during removal of the PPE. The guidelines for PPE have since been tightened to include a buddy system putting on and removing the PPE and covering all exposed skin. Doctors and nurses caring for Ebola patients will be restricted from caring for any other patients and will monitor themselves for symptoms.
The bottom line is these infections are isolated and contained. There is no risk to the general public. So, please, stop listening to Fox Noise and Republican fear mongers like Peter King and Darrel Issa.