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Tempering the Ebola phobia

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Medical Files

Tempering the Ebola phobia

Health Secretary Ike Ona has declared recently that the country is still free from Ebola viral disease (EVD), the dreaded disease which has breached the borders of West Africa and is now threatening the whole world.

EVD is a severe, infectious disease in humans and primates (monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees) caused by the Ebola virus. It carries a high fatality rate killing seven to nine out of every 10 people infected with it.

Transmission of the disease is through close contact with: blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals, body fluids and stools of an infected person. Other sources are contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients, or direct contact with the body of a deceased person.

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Initial signs and symptoms of infection with EVD is very similar to an ordinary flu. One may present with fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and rashes. The patient subsequently deteriorates with impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding with the blood coming out from all body openings.

Overconscious

All of a sudden, everyone becomes overconscious the moment one wakes up in the morning with fever, headache, scratchy throat and other flu-like symptoms. Could it be Ebola? The sometimes paranoid reaction is more damaging than the threat of the disease itself.

Just arriving recently from the United States, a hypertensive patient of mine said he quarantined himself in his room when he developed sore throat with fever and just had the maid leave his food outside his room. But after two days, he was back to his usual hale and hearty self, and was relieved it was not EVD.

No matter how extremely remote the possibility is, one can’t help but worry that he or she might be the first reported case whenever one has flu-like symptoms. The scare over Ebola is really sometimes blown out of proportions, and it’s good that the Department of Health keeps on reassuring the public to be vigilant but not scared.

Since EVD has already gone beyond the fringes of West Africa which has never happened before, the possibility is always there that an asymptomatic carrier like someone who might be infected but is still within the incubation period (wherein the disease is not yet apparent), may enter our country and potentially spread the disease here. This is possible but not likely at the moment.

I’m sure our health officials have systems in place to screen and quarantine people coming from areas where the outbreak of EVD has been reported. In the remote possibility that a carrier has unknowingly entered our country, the virus could be easily contained and its potential spread prevented. So we can just enjoy life as usual and not allow the exaggerated fear and Ebola phobia make us lose sleep at night.

It’s important though to be conscious and vigilant about the disease, and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure it never enters our shores. For example, any returning Filipino from abroad, especially anywhere near Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, or any other areas wherein EVD cases have been diagnosed, should seek assistance from local health authorities if they have fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains and sore throat. They should get a clearance first from the health authorities in their country of employment before making the trip back to our country.

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Closely coordinate

Our local health officials are conscious of this possibility and at present, in places where there are outbreaks of Ebola, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are asked to closely coordinate with their recruitment agencies for means to check them up and find out if they’re at risk for EVD. The deployment of OFWs with new contracts has also been indefinitely suspended. I’m sure those who’ll be repatriated back to the Philippines will be thoroughly screened and closely monitored for any sign or symptom of EVD.

Our OFWs should not mind these precautionary measures because it’s for their own good and that of their loved ones, as well as the whole country.

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TAGS: column, ebola, health and wellness, phobia, rafael r. Castillo
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