The Doctor Is In: Ebola concerns

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(KPLR)- With recent stories of paranoia about the Ebola virus, Dr. Saggar, KPLR 11's very own `Doctor Is In,' stopped by to help eliminate some of the myths surrounding this disease, and shed some light on how this virus works.

Ebola is a very serious communicable disease and the current outbreak is the largest in history.

According to Dr. Saggar, the risk of catching Ebola are extremely low in the US.

Secondly, it`s primarily healthcare workers who are at more risk than the general population.

You cannot get Ebola from air, water, or food.

Human to human transmission occurs only by close contact with infected body fluids which may include blood, sweat, emesis, feces, semen, and breast milk. No airborne transmission between humans has ever been demonstrated.

A person who has Ebola but has no symptoms cannot spread the disease. Although it`s more dangerous, Ebola isn`t as contagious as more common viruses such as the common cold or influenza.

Symptoms:
This wormlike virus attaches itself to cells, invades them and then explodes, using the very immune cells that are supposed to protect us to travel to other parts of the body, attacking almost every organ.

There`s an overwhelming inflammatory reaction with problems of clotting and bleeding at the same time.

Ultimately, it causes levels of blood-clotting cells to drop. This leads to severe, uncontrollable bleeding.
Symptoms of Ebola may appear from 2 to 21 days after exposure (average 8 to 10 days).
· Fever (> 101.5°F)
· Severe headache
· Muscle pains or Joint pains
· Weakness
· Diarrhea
· Vomiting
· Abdominal pain
· Unexplained bleeding or bruising
Early on, Ebola can feel like the flu or other illnesses.

As the disease gets worse, it causes bleeding inside the body, as well as from the eyes, ears, and nose. Some people will vomit or cough up blood, have bloody diarrhea, and get a rash. Loss of blood, and multi-organ failure is what makes this infection deadly.

Sometimes it's hard to tell if a person has Ebola from the symptoms alone. Doctors may need to test to rule out other tropical diseases like cholera or malaria. Although the signs & symptoms of Ebola are not specific, it can be virtually eliminated from the diagnosis by ruling out travel to the affected area or known exposure.
It is important for all doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses to properly screen and manage a possible Ebola presentation.
We are asking patients about their travel history; we know the signs and symptoms of Ebola, and we know what to do if we have a patient with suspected Ebola symptoms (as we would do with any case involving foreign travel outside the United States, unusual infections need to be considered.)

Early Recognition of Ebola is Critical for Infection Control, so we look for:

1) Fever, headache, myalgias, arthralgias, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, anorexia, & in some cases bleeding.
AND

2) Travel to West Africa or other location where Ebola transmission has been reported within 21 days of symptom onset,
OR

Exposure, in the past 21 days, to a patient with Ebola.
If the above criteria are met, we quarantine the patient in a private room with standard, contact, and droplet precautions.
Tests of blood and tissues also can diagnose Ebola.

Treatment:

Presently, there`s no cure for Ebola.
HOWEVER, doctors do know how to manage the symptoms of Ebola, and this includes at any St. Louis area hospital, with:
IV Fluids and electrolytes
Supplemental Oxygen, or helping the patient with breathing
Blood pressure medication
Blood transfusions
Treatment for other infections, which occur as a result of the compromised immune system from Ebola infection

Ebola Prevention:

There`s no vaccine to prevent Ebola. The best way to avoid catching the disease is by not traveling to areas where the virus is found.
Health care workers can prevent infection by wearing gloves, and goggles whenever they come into contact with people who may have Ebola. As long as you don`t touch an infected person or any of their body fluids, you`re safe.
Anchor: Thank you Dr. Saggar for clearing that up for us! I think we can all literally breathe a little easier now!

Dr. Sonny Saggar is a practising internist and emergency physician, and the founder of STLHealthWorks.com, which includes the St. Louis Urgent Cares locations Downtown, Eureka, North City and Creve Coeur.

`STLHealthWorks.com - Treating Patients Like Family`

You can also connect with Dr. Saggar, the Medical Director at St. Louis Urgent Cares, and ask him any questions that you like.