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Ebola Virus in USA | How safe is your family?

Updated on October 16, 2014
LongTimeMother profile image

LTM's grandmother and great aunts used medicinal herbs and remedies. Today LTM still uses many natural remedies for her own family.

The news that Amber Vinson, a 29 year old nurse who helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan before he died, has contracted Ebola has wide implications.

There are many unanswered questions about Vinson's recent activities, which means every American now has to consider questions of their own about the safety of their own families in the face of Ebola spreading.

Self-monitoring and quarantine

Vinson travelled on a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas before being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. News reports say she had an elevated temperature while travelling and the likelihood of any of the 132 passengers on the flight contracting the virus is 'remote'.

Efforts have been made to contact the other passengers, but what happens now? Will all those passengers who shared a relatively confined space with Amber Vinson be self-monitoring themselves for symptoms of Ebola over the coming weeks? How reliable will that process be?

Amber Vinson is a health worker, yet she caught a flight to Cleveland during the ebola incubation period. What instructions have the passengers been given about their own actions, and interactions with others, during the coming month?

Is it realistic to expect people with jobs and families and other commitments to be any more cautious about the need to quarantine oneself than a nurse who worked with an ebola victim who died?

Do you live or work with someone exposed to Ebola?

We know there were 132 passengers on Vinson's flight. But there's a great deal we don't know.

  • We don't know who those other passengers were, or where they live and work. We don't know which schools their children attend or where their partners work. We have no way of predicting just who (if any) of the other passengers might succumb to the virus - and no idea of whether or not anything would be gained from isolating them all.
  • We don't know if Amber Vinson used the public toilets at the airport in Cleveland before boarding the flight. If she was feeling a slight fever, did she rinse her face and perhaps wipe her mouth before turning off a tap? And if so, what level of threat would there be for the next person who used the same wash basin?
  • We have no way of knowing how many of those passengers will travel far and wide for their work or holidays, and no way of predicting exactly where they may be when their first symptoms show.

If medical authorities are correct when they say that Ebola can only be passed on by contact with bodily fluids of an Ebola sufferer, perhaps there's very little risk associated with Amber Vinson's flight. Only time will tell.

However, I am personally concerned about the potential risk from Vinson's activities in the hours and days before she caught the Frontier flight.

There's no such thing as clean air on a plane

Will the next plane you catch expose you to ebola?
Will the next plane you catch expose you to ebola? | Source

Kissing an Ebola sufferer

According to a news report, Amber Vinson "flew home to Cleveland at the weekend, and returned 2 days ago." The report claimed she was in Cleveland "to prepare for her wedding."

If that is true, presumably the bride-to-be kissed her friends and family. I don't know how every other family operates, but in my family we kiss hello .. and goodbye. And if a family member who lives and works in another State comes home for a weekend, there's lots of kissing.

So, another unanswered question is how many people did in fact potentially come in very close contact with the Ebola virus while Amber was in Cleveland?

And where did they travel from? At least it wasn't the actual wedding where many more guests would have been kissing the bride. Perhaps she just quietly flew in for a meeting with a dressmaker and a wedding planner. And presumably they didn't kiss.

Hmmm ... there's no point getting paranoid about the potential spread of the ebola virus from a quick visit back home. How many people is a potential bride likely to kiss in a weekend? (Or a potential bridesmaid if the news report is wrong and she flew home to prepare for someone else's wedding.)

Protecting your family from Ebola

We are entering unchartered waters when it comes to Ebola. The Ebola virus is in the USA but there are no guidelines or rules about how to protect families from the threat.

Common sense would indicate this is a time to avoid unnecessary risk. If a planned trip involving exposure to countless other people can be delayed, I suggest delaying it.

Most importantly, I believe every parent should be reminding and instructing their children to wash their hands before eating, and not share food or drink even with their closest friends.

This is definitely a time to reflect on exactly how you'll respond if ebola spreads widely throughout the US. You'll have plenty of time to consider the big issues as we wait and see what happens in the next month.

© 2014 LongTimeMother

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    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      I understand that many might be hoping for a vaccine soon, askformore 1m, but I think a newly launched vaccine would come with a whole new set of problems. I'm hoping instead for a 'cure'.

      Who would be given this new vaccine? What side effects (long term as well as short term) would it bring? If we allow our children to be vaccinated with it, can we be guaranteed the vaccine itself wouldn't cause them harm?

      I think it would be great if they were offering a new 'cure' to people who were already infected with Ebola and facing a very high likelihood of death. But a vaccine to give to the healthy - when it is so new and untested? I wouldn't like that.

      Anyway, I do appreciate you visiting and leaving a comment. Hope you don't mind me sharing my thoughts after reading it. :)

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 3 years ago

      Thank you for your very detailed information about the risks of Ebola.

      Let us all hope for a "Ebola Vaccine" developed very soon.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Has anyone else noticed the CDC is one of the applicants for a Patent on a type of Ebola??? Has anything been said about it in the media?

      I am exhausted, having just written over 6,000 words to share my thoughts on prepping for Ebola for someone who asked. Seemed to make sense to broaden it a little to publish it instead of just sending an extraordinarily long email. It is about 3.30 am local time. Took a long time to put it all together.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Speaking of the victims being moved to several different places instead of being contained in one place, I forgot to mention the journalist being treated in Nebraska.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Ebola certainly has the nation wondering how we are going to prevent an epidemic. I hope the government brings solutions to this virus within the week. The CDC has lost their credentials with most of the US.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Hi Jean and Silva. The CDC and the World Health Organization are both looking less 'expert' than we'd all expect. Seems the CDC gave Vinson permission to fly, despite having a temperature ... plus their instructions about how to gown up (and remove gowns, gloves etc) leave medical personnel vulnerable.

      WHO took much longer to respond to the initial Ebola outbreak than is considered appropriate. They say there will be no investigation until after the crisis has been controlled.

      So far it seems Luck and Chance have been major contributors in the US at least. Shame the African nations haven't been having more luck.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I had that same thought: One taken to New Hampshire, and one to Georgia, and Dallas and Galveston are already compromised in Texas . . . people who were in direct contact with the first victim are free to travel on commercial airliners and cruise ships (!) . . . people are counted on to voluntarily isolate themselves -- seems that those in charge are dropping the ball right and left (latest is the news that our "czar" of Ebola is a political appointee? Not an expert in the field of deadly infectious disease?) I am thinking we are dependent on Luck and Chance.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 3 years ago from New Jersey

      And if somebody falls asleep on a plane, sometimes they sweat. Was the plane cleaned according to protocol? I don't think these patients should keep being moved to different states either. Wouldn't it be best to keep them in one facility, instead of taking the risk of spreading the infection in a variety of states? It seems like everyone down the line dropped the ball here. I heard Obama yesterday saying he is getting teams of doctors from other countries to go to West Africa, but it already seems like too little too late.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I listen in disbelief to TV news anchors make statements about how people who may or may not have been exposed "self-isolating" themselves. That is laughable. Some few people may be honorable enough, and at the same time, financially able to isolate themselves, using the "honor system." Most people, in these times of financial hardship, are not going to lose pay and take a chance on losing their job in order to stay home for 3 weeks. That is just not going to happen! The snarky comments I've read on-line are just amazing. Some wit who seemed to consider himself an expert made the statement that symptoms of Ebola are not coughing or sneezing so we don't need to worry about people spraying their body fluids about in enclosed spaces such as planes and elevators. All people occasionally cough and sneeze when they are not ill. Why wouldn't an Ebola-infected person cough or sneeze, unrelated to the illness, but spreading the infection anyway?

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      We absolutely need to be more concerned when people cough and sneeze, FlourishAnyway. The early signs of ebola are very flu-like. Is the American media talking about the people she was in contact with before leaving Cleveland? If not, why not?

      You raise an interesting point about donating blood (or selling it, as I believe is the case in at least some US states.) It makes sense for all blood donations to be quarantined for weeks until the donor is confirmed to remain well, but that's likely to be a logistical nightmare. If ebola remains uncontrolled and spreads, I doubt there will be much call for blood transfusions. Nobody will want to go near a hospital.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Your observations are interesting, RTalloni. A friend of mine made a similar observation about carelessness in a different industry recently. She blames it on the high levels of antidepressants currently being prescribed. "It was like they were all on the I-don't-give-a-f*** drugs" she said. (Her expression for antidepressants.)

      Perhaps that's one of the questions health care workers should be asked before being assigned to a team caring for ebola patients. Are you on antidepressants? I have certainly noticed a shift in focus (or ability to focus) in acquaintances who have been prescribed them.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      You ask good questions. Here are so others. What about her fiancé? Did she not see him during her trip? Now do we need to worry about him, too? This is going to create more alarm than they suspected, as I suspect there is a lot more we do not know about the disease. What about out blood supply? Will one of those 132 people go donate blood? Should it cause concern? Have we even considered that? Do we need to be even more concerned now when people don't cover their coughs and sneezes?

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      After a recent stay in a hospital I realized that the carelessness I had seen in the past was a drop in the bucket to how careless many health care workers are today. Those who are trying to follow procedures carefully are up against a tsunami of carelessness from coworkers that is quite stunning. It will not only be interesting to see if people exposed to this nurse during her ill-advised trip come down with the disease, but if any thing is learned from this event.