Be prepared to detect a potential patient, protect yourself and others from exposure, and respond with appropriate patient care.
As fears about Ebola rise in the U.S., we must be prepared to respond, whether to answer patients’ questions or to detect an infected patient. The following information provides an overview of how to prevent the spread of Ebola through proper communication, staff training, and patient care.
Individuals infected with the Ebola virus can become sick quickly, so early recognition and rapid response are important. Because the symptoms of Ebola virus disease are nonspecific, it is important for you and your staff to have a heightened awareness of the possibility of Ebola.
- If a patient has a fever of 38°C (100.4°F) or higher and symptoms consistent with Ebola, find out as soon as possible whether or not he or she has traveled to a high-risk country(www.cdc.gov)(www.cdc.gov) or has had contact with a known Ebola patient within the past 21 days.
- Inform your staff how to best triage patients concerned about Ebola, and have a plan for what to do if a patient is high risk.
If you see a patient who has had a potential exposure to the Ebola virus within the past 21 days, follow these procedures:
- Isolate the patient in a room with the door closed.
- Implement standard, contact, and droplet precautions.
- Conduct a risk assessment to determine if the patient has had a high-risk exposure.
- Limit the number of people who are exposed to the patient.
- Ensure frequent hand washing, proper use of personal protective equipment(www.cdc.gov)(www.cdc.gov) (e.g., gloves, gown, goggles/face shield, face mask), and appropriate decontamination of surfaces and equipment. For more information, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidance(www.cdc.gov)(www.cdc.gov) on environmental infection control in hospitals.
- Make sure you have the contact information for state, local, and federal public health authorities, as well as the CDC, readily available. All agencies must be notified immediately if you encounter a suspected Ebola patient.
- Transfer the patient to a facility that can provide appropriate care. Emergency Medical Service personnel should be informed that the patient may have Ebola virus disease so that they follow their protocols to avoid transmission.
The CDC website(www.cdc.gov)(www.cdc.gov) has many resources for physicians and other healthcare workers. The CDC’s main emergency operations center hotline number is (770) 488-7100. It is staffed 24 hours a day.
For Your Patients
Visit FamilyDoctor.org for accurate, easy-to-read information on the Ebola virus disease(familydoctor.org) for your patients.
Learn More About Ebola
From the AAFP
- AAFP News: Prepare Now for Ebola in Your Office
- AFP: Fever in Returning Travelers: A Case-Based Approach
From the CDC
- Algorithm for Evaluating Returned Travelers(www.cdc.gov)
- Algorithm for Evaluating Emergency Patients(www.cdc.gov)
- Algorithm for Ambulatory Care Evaluation of Patients With Possible Ebola(www.cdc.gov)
- New Guidelines on Personal Protective Equipment for Health Care Workers
- Information and Clinical Guidance on Ebola