This past summer, citizens around the world were saddened and alarmed to hear of the growing public health epidemic taking place in West Africa. Until recently, however, few people in the U.S. paid much attention to the deadly virus known as Ebola. However, when news broke that a man in the U.S. had tested positive for the virus and was being treated at a hospital, questions and concerns were raised about how to contain the virus and prevent its spread. More recently the man, who had traveled from West Africa and was being treated for Ebola in a U.S. hospital, died.
As U.S. health officials and infectious disease specialists work towards finding a way to more effectively contain and treat the virus, the health and very lives of employees in numerous industries are at risk. In addition to the obvious risks to nurses and doctors for exposure to the virus, individuals in other professions are also at risk including pilots, flight attendants, airport security personnel, morticians and first responders.
In response to the growing threat posed by the possible spread of Ebola in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to provide employers and workers with information to aid in the prevention, early detection and spread of Ebola in work settings and amongs employees.
The Ebola virus is spread when an individual comes into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual. Once contact with the virus has occurred, an individual may become infected via the eyes, mucus membranes or any cuts or scrapes. Additionally, the virus can live for a period of time outside an individual’s body. It’s possible; therefore, that one could unknowingly be exposed without coming into direct contact with an infected individual.
The CDC has issued safety recommendations for employers and employees within industries believed to be at the highest risk for exposure to Ebola. The use of protective gear including gloves, face masks and eyewear is recommended. Additionally, proper hand washing, disinfecting methods and the proper disposal of potentially contaminated materials are all critical to preventing the spread of the virus.
Source: New York Times, “Death of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas Fuels Alarm Over Ebola,” Manny Fernandez and David Phillips, Oct. 8, 2014