Ebola Virus in USA | How safe is your 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
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.)
Keep up with Ebola news
- New Ebola patient transferred to Atlanta
A 26-year-old nurse who is the second Texas hospital worker to test positive for Ebola is
- Second Texas healthcare worker diagnosed with Ebola virus | World news | The Guardian
Worker who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan flew on US flight from Cleveland the day before she reported Ebola symptoms
- New Ebola Cases May Rise to 10,000 a Week by December - WSJ - WSJ
The Ebola virus is killing 70% of the people who contract the disease, the World Health Organization said, and as many as 10,000 new cases a week could be reported by early December.
- Log In - The New York Times
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