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September 21, 2023

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Ebola unlikely to reach Bowling Green, University

In light of Ebola cases elsewhere in the country, Wood County officials have been planning for a local response.

The Wood County Health District [WCHD] has daily conference calls with the Ohio Department of Health, said Jennifer Wagner, Wood County health educator. The WCHD has also talked with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and local EMS personnel. Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey met with U.S. Representative Bob Latta to discuss Ohio’s preparation.

The WCHD’s role is to educate the public and make sure the appropriate people have the proper training and equipment, Wagner said. The WCHD does not provide equipment to people such as EMS crews, but it makes sure they know what equipment is necessary.

If there was an Ebola case in Wood County, the WCHD would be responsible for “contact tracing” [figuring out who came into contact with the patient] and monitoring those contacts, Wagner said.

Ebola patients would not be treated at Wood County Hospital, said Mike Lemon, medical director of the WCHD.

“The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has made it clear they are going to nationalize treatment of identified Ebola patients,” Lemon said.

This means patients would only be at the Wood County Hospital for testing, which would take a few hours, Lemon said. During that time, the patient would be isolated. The patient would then be transported to a hospital better equipped to handle Ebola.

Emory University Hospital, Nebraska Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center have treated patients without any employees contracting Ebola, according to the CDC.

Ebola doesn’t spread easily, said Karen Johnson-Webb, an associate professor at the University who teaches a geography class about global pestilence and plagues. A person must come in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, or with an item saturated in bodily fluids.

“You have to be in the trenches with the person,” she said.

Because Ebola is not easily contracted, people shouldn’t be too concerned about it, Johnson-Webb said. Still, there is some fear.

“Most people who get it die,” Johnson-Webb said. “That’s why it’s terrifying.”

There is no proven treatment, but some potential treatments including vaccines are being tested, according to the World Health Organization’s web page about Ebola.

The first symptoms of Ebola are fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, according to the WHO page. Vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and internal and external bleeding follow.

The Ebola virus’ incubation period is up to 21 days.

On Oct. 20, 43 people who were being monitored after having contact with Thomas Duncan [the only person to die from Ebola in the U.S.] were declared Ebola-free after 21 days of isolation, The New York Times reported. On Nov. 7, the incubation period for everyone still being monitored in Texas will end.

The fact that none of those 43 people contracted Ebola “should be a comfort to people who think that by riding on an airplane with people you might catch Ebola,” Johnson-Webb said.

People believe things like that because they “are unable or unwilling to educate themselves about the true risk of contracting it,” she said.

The WCHD hasn’t seen Ebola panic in the county’s residents yet.

“Nobody’s really had any concerns about it,” Wagner said. “It’s not spread through the air. There’s no Ebola cases in Ohio.”

There are other diseases that people should be more concerned about, Johnson-Webb said. Malaria, for example, has killed far more people that Ebola. Also, measles spreads more easily than Ebola, and an increasing number of parents are not vaccinating their children against diseases like measles.

The number of Ebola patients has held steady since nurse Amber Vinson’s diagnosis on Oct. 15.

Duncan has died, three patients recovered in August and early September and four patients [including Vinson] are in treatment, according to The New York Times.

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