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What are the Real Risks of Ebola to the Public?

Summary: When and how can a person who is infected with Ebola give it to another person?
Air Date: 10/24/14
Duration: 10
Host: Leigh Vinocur, MD
Guest Bio: Rade B. Vukmir, MD & David C. Pigott, MD
Dr. Rade Vukmir

Rade B. Vukmir, MD, JD, FCCP, FACEP, FACHE, is Chief Clinical Officer for National Guardian Risk Retention Group. Dr. Vukmir is the Chairman of ECI's Education and Risk Management Department. He holds an academic appointment as Professor (Adjunct) of Emergency Medicine at Temple University. He has written extensively about Ebola and infectious disease in general.

He is board-certified in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Chest Physicians, and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Dr. Vukmir received medical and legal degrees from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. He completed a residency program in Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, a clinical fellowship in Critical Care at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and a research fellowship in Resuscitation at the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research. He is a certified instructor of Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Advanced Trauma Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and the Fundamentals of Critical Care Support.

He is the author of 42, peer-reviewed medical journal articles, as well as seven books. He is the recipient of the University of Pittsburgh Affiliated Residency and Emergency Medicine Faculty Excellence Award for 1991 and 1992.

Dr. David Pigott

David C. Pigott, MD, FACEP, is Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vice Chair for Academic Development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Dr. Pigott has authored multiple articles and book chapters related to viral hemorrhagic fevers, including the Ebola virus and serves as a manuscript reviewer on viral hemorrhagic fevers for The Lancet.

He is teaching two related courses about Ebola and the U.S. Experience and infectious disease at ACEP's upcoming Scientific Assembly conference in Chicago.
What are the Real Risks of Ebola to the Public?
Even though you might have been hearing that Ebola could be airborne, it can only be spread through bodily fluids.

This includes (but is not limited to) spit/saliva, urine, vomit, semen, and/or feces. This also means you would have to touch the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick or has died from Ebola and have contact with your mouth, eyes, or nose in order for you to become infected.

You're not going to catch Ebola if you're simply sitting next to someone on the subway, an airplane or out in the street.
However, when a patient is isolated in a hospital due to a potential risk of an Ebola infection, doctors, nurses and other medical stuff need to take a higher precaution by wearing hazmat suits. Since Ebola can cause tiny breaks in your skin due to the internal bleeding, if you're not wearing protective gear, it is possible that touching an infected patient could drastically increase your risk of becoming infected.

What are some of the symptoms associated with Ebola?

Ebola symptoms include fatigue, chills, body aches (8-10 days after exposure), chest pain, shortness of breath, redness of the eyes, bleeding under your skin (looks like bruising, dark rash), and bleeding from your GI tract, gums and nose.

Is your everyday life at risk?

It's a fact; patients with Ebola who did not know they had the virus were flying on airplanes, traveling on public transportation and living their normal lives. But, none of the people they might have come in contact with are becoming infected. This is because those patients were not infectious at that point.

Rade B. Vukmir, MD, and David C. Pigott, MD, discuss the symptoms of Ebola, as well as when and how Ebola can be transmitted.