Louisiana, Nicholls not at risk of Ebola outbreak

According to Brian Clausen, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Nicholls State University does not currently face the threat of an Ebola outbreak.

“There is no problem with Ebola. There is no imminent threat, especially to Nicholls State University. There are no confirmed cases of it in Louisiana,” Clause said.

Clausen added, “We do not anticipate Ebola becoming a pandemic, but in the event that occurred, we would follow orders from the CDC.”

According to the New York Times, there are nine cases of Ebola in the United States. Of those nine cases, one patient has died, seven have recovered and one remains in treatment. A pandemic is determined by how fast it spreads, not by how many deaths it causes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not classify the United States as currently suffering a pandemic.

The CDC does advise that flu like symptoms may be mistaken for Ebola.

“Seasonal Influenza and Ebola virus infections can cause some similar symptoms. However, of these viruses, your symptoms are most likely caused by seasonal influenza. Influenza is very common. Millions of people are infected, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands die from flu each year. In the United States, fall and winter is the time for flu.”

According to the World Health Organization, symptoms of seasonal flu include “a sudden onset of high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and runny nose.”

 The report by the WHO adds, “Most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention. Influenza can cause severe illness or death, especially in people at high risk. The time from infection to illness, known as the incubation period, is about two days.”

Dr. Daniel Hussar, pharmacy professor at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, told ConsumerAffairs.com, “Ebola might kill, if it spreads in the U.S., but flu does kill year in and year out.”

The CDC reports that Influenza remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. Clausen agreed that the flu is a more realistic threat.

“We have a greater chance with the flu…. or West Nile virus that something could happen there than with Ebola,” Clausen said.

The CDC has also reported that the H1N1 virus may pose a threat this season.

“The H1N1 virus, which emerged in 2009 to trigger a pandemic that year, is active again this year. CDC reports high rates of hospitalization and deaths among people 18-64 years old.  More deaths than usual (nearly 60 percent of flu deaths) have occurred in the 25-64 age group; a pattern similar to the 2009 pandemic. While H1N1 viruses have continued to circulate since 2009, this is the first season since the pandemic that H1N1 has been circulating so widely in the United States.”

The flu vaccine is still the best protection against most strands of flu, including H1N1.

Clausen explained, “With Ebola, you are not contagious unless you have symptoms. The incubation period lasts for 21 days. After that period, if you have not shown symptoms, you do not have Ebola. Someone with Ebola is most contagious when they are dead, the early day of the virus is not as dangerous.”

“If you are in a room and someone with Ebola sneezes, it is not likely you will get it, but if someone has the flu and sneezes, it can spray a long distance, and that is how people can become ill quite rapidly,” Clausen continued.

“I recommend that everybody go get the flu shot,” Clausen added.

The flu is transmitted through air and can spread more easily. A person who may have Ebola has to have been exposed to the bodily fluids of a patient who has the disease. The Ebola virus can survive a few hours on dry surfaces, but it can survive days if it is in a puddle of body fluid. The CDC has made it clear that bleach can kill the Ebola virus.

According to Clausen, the university’s pandemic plan follows guidelines set by the CDC.

“The University takes this seriously. We are following instruction from executive orders by the governor on reporting incidents,” Clausen said.

Currently, the university plans to educate the public and to screen patients before they are seen in University Health.

“If someone has been in that region or knows someone in that region, do not go to University Health. Call them and they will screen you. If needed, they will monitor you with the department of health and hospitals,” Clausen said.

When calling University Health to make an appointment, the caller will be asked if they have a fever, whether they were in a country with an Ebola outbreak and if they have been exposed to someone who may have had Ebola. If the caller responds yes to question one and yes to questions two and/or four, they will be asked not to report to University Health. Instead appropriate emergency responders will be dispatched to provide a unified public safety response.

Clausen reiterated, “We do not want anyone to panic because we do not have a situation here in Louisiana, especially at Nicholls State University.”