I’m currently pregnant and on a plane. I’ve been washing my hands frequently and trying not to touch too many commonly touched surfaces. Why am I being so careful?
It’s cold and flu season!
With cold weather upon us (at least in most of the country), and kids back in school, viruses are spreading. What viruses are we seeing now? There are too many to count. Some cause no symptoms, some cause the common cold, some cause breathing problems and others cause high fevers, rash and even encephalitis. Yet, everyone on my plane seems to be glued to the screen in front of them watching CNN coverage of Ebola in America.
How did this happen? In this case, a man from Liberia, who had recent contact with a person with Ebola, boarded a plane without a fever or any other symptoms. Days after arriving in the U.S. he felt ill, went to the ER, where he was sent home, he was taken back 3 days later via ambulance because he was so sick. At this point he was isolated, and he tested positive for Ebola.
Yes, he came into contact with other people (20 per report) while he was symptomatic (not feeling well) in the U.S. Ebola IS a horrible virus and IS very infectious. People with Ebola get very sick, very quickly and although nobody with Ebola has died in the U.S. (sample size of 3), more than 50% of Ebola patients do die in other countries. The good news is that Ebola is NOT very contagious.
Ebola can be transmitted by a sick person (eg. body aches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea) with Ebola via blood and other body fluids. It doesn’t travel through the air like Measles or the Flu and it doesn’t get transmitted from touching common surfaces like Enterovirus. Unless you have been in contact with somebody who has been in West Africa who is sick, you likely don’t have to worry.
That’s why I’m not too worried (at least today) about catching Ebola virus on the plane. I’m also not too worried about catching Measles, because I HAVE BEEN VACCINATED. If I was traveling with an infant under 1 year of age, too young to be vaccinated or a person on chemotherapy, unable to get vaccinated, I would be concerned. Measles if very contagious, can spread quickly, especially in areas where some people aren’t vaccinated and is a very serious infection that can cause severe illness, brain infection and even death.
As the person behind me coughs, I am reminded that are some tried and true things that we can do to help keep our family healthy this cold and flu season.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Teach your kids to do the same, especially after using the bathroom, after playing, before eating or touching their face.
- Regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces.
- Cough into your elbow instead of your hands to help decrease spread of germs.
- Use tissue and throw the tissue in the trash. Remind kids too!
- Stay home when you are sick and keep your children home when they are sick.
- GET VACCINATED. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a FLU VACCINE. Flu Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and family against the flu. In addition, check with your doctor to make sure you and your children are up to date on Measles, Whooping cough and other important vaccines.