I am a firm believer in good public health policy, and feel confident in our country’s ability to respond to Ebola effectively. In the upcoming days, we will see a familiar reaction to Ebola – one that reminds us of the SARS outbreak. Airport security will step up their precautionary screenings; anyone presenting with flu-like symptoms will be withheld from travel and sent home. Places like emergency rooms will increase use of universal precautions like masks, gloves and hand washing, because it will be difficult to determine who has normal viral symptoms and who may be at the early stages of Ebola. There will definitely be the need for a higher index of suspicion for flulike symptoms, particularly in a patient with recent travel.
That being said, Ebola is not transmitted by airborne contact and can only be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids. To become infected, a person must also be exposed to the disease when the carrier is symptomatic. Therefore, public health efforts will focus on isolating potentially symptomatic patients from public settings to prevent Ebola from spreading.
As a father and pediatrician, I would urge my family, friends, and patients to just be thoughtful in the coming weeks. After being in public gatherings or medical sites wash your hands. Avoid obviously ill people and consult your physician if you or your family has fever or flu-like symptoms. If you are ill or have a medical need, you might consider a telehealth visit through Amwell so that you can avoid waiting rooms and other ill patients.
Of course, we all have to keep living our lives and we should not panic. I, for one, am about to get on a plane to fly back to Los Angeles. Am I afraid that I’ll catch Ebola on the plane? No, but I will make sure to stay away from anyone with a cough and I will wash my hands once I land. It never hurts to be careful.
Questions about Ebola? For complete peace of mind, connect to a board-certified doctor on American Well from anywhere, at any time 24-7. Go online or download the mobile app from iTunes or Google Play stores.
Catherine Anderson contributed to this report.