TO TRAVEL OR NOT TO TRAVEL: THE EBOLA SCARE. . .
Late Friday afternoon I and four other girlfriends were in a cab speeding towards Las Vegas airport to catch a flight back to San Francisco when my friend got a text from a pharmacist buddy. "Ebola scare at Las Vegas airport. Passenger taken off from plane arriving at Las Vegas from New York due to suspected Ebola infection," it read. "Use hand sanitizer!" It took barely thirty seconds for the mood in the car to go from up to down like an elevator. A minute prior we'd been giggling and laughing over memories of fun times and a minute later, boom; we were contemplating a scary and fast death. I dug around in my purse for a 4 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer, and we applied it liberally to our hands, our elbows, our forearms; literally, every exposed area of skin. We gingerly mounted the escalator being careful not to touch the escalator handle and refrained from using the public bathrooms. In the end, the scare turned out to be a false alarm. However, with the amount of travel Americans engage in, the fear of contracting the virus is a real one. Here's the good news:
1. Before you start texting your doctor friends, know this. Patients are contagious only when they are suffering symptoms: fever, muscle aches, vomiting and so on.
2. The virus is not air-borne like germs that cause measles or tuberculosis. Direct contact with infected bodily fluids like blood, urine, saliva, semen or feces is how the virus hops from one person to the next. Those fluids must have an entry point like a cut or scrape or someone touching the nose, mouth, or eyes with contaminated hands or being splashed.
3. There have only been two confirmed cases of Ebola here--Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died on Oct. 8 and the Dallas nurse who cared for him during his second visit to the hospital. Duncan was infected during a visit to Liberia. The nurse is the first known direct transmission in the U.S.
4. If you're going to one of these five U.S. airports (NY's JFK International; Washington Dulles; Newark; Chicago O' Hare and Atlanta) you might see people getting their temperature taken. The U.S. has stepped up screening measures after the head of the Centers of Disease Control said the Ebola outbreak could be "the world's next AIDS."
So, if you need to get on a plane this week, the advice from the medical experts is: Take a deep breath, stay calm. Don't panic. Here's something to make you feel better: President Obama stated that he recently "hugged and kissed" nurses treating Ebola patients in Atlanta (ref: Huffpost.com; article by Arthur Delaney; 10/15/14) and feels good about it!