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Bowman County Courthouse
104 1st St NW
Bowman, ND 58623

 

WHAT IF? Could Ebola reach North Dakota

October 24, 2014

What if ebola were to reach North Dakota?

It’s a real concern considering the virus’s ease of spread, but doctors across the state, and the country are now installing preventative measures to assure medical assistance is ready whenever it may be needed.

By BRYCE MARTIN | Pioneer Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

Dr. Forrest Lanchbury, a medical doctor at Southwest Healthcare in Bowman, said quarantine and containment are the two real world practices to safeguard an ebola patient from further spreading the virus.

Mainstream media isn’t helping to ease citizens’ fear of being contaminated by ebola, and true discrepancies are being pointed out by medical facilities around the world, including the World Heath Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ebola is strictly spread through direct contact with a contaminated person’s bodily fluids, including saliva, semen, blood, sweat and feces. Research of the virus has suggested a patient is not contagious to other humans unless they are showing symptoms, which occur anywhere from two to 21 days after infections, such as high fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, weakness, stomach pain and lack of appetite.

The Ebola virus causes a serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the WHO. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

“If Ebola were to reach Bowman, the practice of quarantine and containment would be the most important practice to prevent spread of the virus,” Lanchbury said. “There is no effective treatment so recovery from infection is mainly dependent on an individual’s immune response to infection.”

As with any infectious disease, the most important thing is to contain the infection even if there is a specific treatment, he added.

The WHO and CDC have been on the forefront of dealing with the unprecedented ebola outbreak in western Africa. Since the very first ebola patient arrived inside the United States last month, several other cases spread quickly, infecting several others and potentially more.

One person, a man traveling from Liberia to Dallas, was infected with the disease and subsequently died – the first casualty from the ebola in the country’s borders.

The only drugs, experimental at this point and not approved by the Federal Drug Administration, proved effective in the treatment of two patients. Since then, their quantities have been depleted.

The average mortality rate of Ebola is around 50 percent, but varies from 25 to 90 percent, according to Lanchbury.

“Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks,” he said.

If an outbreak occurred in the Bowman area, good outbreak control would rely on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilization, he explained.

Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralize the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.

“When comparing the countries affected by ebola in Africa it is very important to keep in mind that the most severely affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have very weak health systems. They lack human and infrastructural resources.  These countries have had long periods of conflict and instability and are only recently emerging from this.

“I am very confident that given our excellent health care systems  and resources in the United States and North Dakota, we could contain an Ebola outbreak quickly and have a much lower mortality rate in those individuals affected by Ebola,” he said.

In North Dakota, there is a plan in place to contain Ebola and trained personnel to carry it out.

KNOW THE FACTS OF EBOLA:
■ Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
■ The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
■ The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
■ The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
■ Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
■ Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
■ There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but 2 potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.

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