Fears have heightened with the news of a confirmed case of Ebola virus in Dallas. And concerns about a new strain of the enterovirus spreading among children in 45 states has parents on guard.
While scientists at OMRF urge appropriate caution, they have two key words of advice: don’t panic.
“Some viruses can be passed through the air, but Ebola isn’t one of them,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., who is a physician and medical researcher. “Ebola is transmitted only through direct contact with bodily fluids like saliva, sweat or blood.”
“It’s also crucial to remember that Ebola has not been found to be contagious until a patient starts developing symptoms,” said Prescott. “That means that someone who’s not yet showing signs of the virus can’t infect other people.”
To protect yourself from viruses, Prescott recommends a common-sense approach. “The age-old advice your mother gave you still applies: Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes,” he said. “And if someone appears sick, avoid close contact or sharing drinks or food with that person.”
The three main access points for viruses are the eyes, nose and mouth—all places most likely to be touched by hands. Be sure to wash your hands after touching communal-use objects like door handles or tables, or use hand sanitizer until you can get to a sink. When you wash, be sure to use warm water and soap and spend at least 20 seconds getting them clean.
You can do your part to stop the spread of airborne viruses like enterovirus or influenza by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If there isn’t a tissue nearby, use the crook of your elbow.
“With the news full of stories about viruses, it’s easy to succumb to fear,” said Prescott. “But a better reaction is to take appropriate preventative steps.”
“That means being vigilant about hand-washing and getting your flu shot,” he said. “If you get sick, stay home to avoid sharing your germs with others. If your symptoms worsen, seek medical care promptly.”
In the event new cases of Ebola arise in this country, there’s no need to panic, said Prescott. “The US public health infrastructure is well-equipped to deal with an emerging infectious disease like this. We have the tools and know-how to isolate this virus and prevent a widespread outbreak.”