By Guadalupe Santos-Sanchez, Staff Reporter
There is a lot of hysteria about the Ebola virus in the United States but the likelihood of there being someone with Ebola on campus is low, said Marti Brittenham, director of the Student Health Center at CNM.
At this point the risk is low and the number of people in the United States who have had Ebola are few, she said.
Ebola is an epidemic in West African countries such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia but it is not an epidemic in the United States nor is it likely to become one, she said.
“So while it’s certainly a frightening disease, because it has a greater than 50% mortality rate in Africa, it is not a widespread disease in the United States,” she said.
Just to be sure, the Student Health Center is asking anyone who goes in for any reason if they have been out of the country in the last 21 days, she said.
There has not yet been anyone say that has reported that they have been outside of the country, but that might change in the spring semester because people go home over the holidays, she said.
It will be more likely that people think they have the symptoms of Ebola when they actually have influenza or the stomach flu since that is very common every winter because those people will be complaining about nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, Brittenham said.
“I’ll probably be making a number of phone calls to the Health Department about getting those people cultured for Ebola which is not going to be a lot of fun,” she said.
However, if they have not left the country in the last 21 days, the chances of them having Ebola are very, very slim, she said.
Ebola is a viral disease and it is not airborne, so a person cannot get it the way they would get the common cold, she said.
“The only way you can get it is by having skin to skin contact or from direct contact with someone’s infected bodily fluids,” she said.
An infected person starts off by not feeling well and having a fever which is usually above 101.3, she said.
The disease may eventually cause diarrhea and vomiting as well, she said.
“The reason why so many people die is that the disease is so violent in the vomiting and diarrhea that it is very difficult to keep up fluids,” she said.
Not being able to keep up with the bodily fluids results in a person being dehydrated and eventually having all of the bodies systems collapsing, she said.
Brittenham and other health care providers have attended several webinars on Ebola from the state department and a national webinar regarding student health centers, she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is giving recommendations on how to diagnose and treat Ebola, and it appears that Liberia is beginning to get ahead of the outbreak, she said.
“Certainly if there were any suspicion of someone having Ebola the state health department, probably UNM, and the CDC will be contacted and become active in preventative measures,” she said.