A Thurston County resident recently returned to the area after spending three weeks in Liberia. While the individual had no contact with anyone suffering from Ebola or being monitored for the disease while in Liberia, the person has agreed to self-monitor for fever and other symptoms of Ebola for 21 days and work closely with public health officials.
The Thurston County resident volunteered in Liberia, training health professionals in infection control procedures at clinics that were not treating Ebola patients. Because the individual had limited physical contact with anyone while in Liberia and was not exposed to Ebola patients, there is "no known risk" of Ebola. However, the person has voluntarily agreed to take time off from work, and monitor and report their temperature twice a day for 21 days—the maximum incubation period for the Ebola virus.
"Because of the precautions this person took while in Liberia, there is a less than minimal risk that the person contracted Ebola. But when we spoke, we agreed that taking extra precautions would give other area residents some peace of mind," said Dr. Diana Yu, Mason County Health Officer and acting health officer for Thurston County.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently enacted protocols for travelers returning from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone that call for notifying health officials in the state where the traveler lives. When the Thurston County resident arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, CDC screening determined that the traveler presents "no known risk" of harboring the disease. CDC then notified the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) as spelled out in the new protocols. DOH staff then alerted Thurston County Public Health officials, who immediately contacted the traveler to discuss their travel history and confirm that there is no known health risk to the community.
The Ebola virus is only spread by contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is already sick with the disease; this individual has none of those risk factors. Thurston County Public Health officials are conducting routine monitoring and follow-up; steps that are being taken for all travelers returning from Ebola-stricken countries.
Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or by food commercially available in the U.S. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:
- Blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola. This includes, but is not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen;
- Objects like needles and syringes that have been contaminated with the virus;
- Infected animals. Only mammals have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
"A central role of the county's public health department is to protect the public's health and control infectious diseases like Ebola. But in this case, it's also important that we work to calm people's fears. That's what we're doing here," said Don Sloma, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Director. "We will continue to work closely with the local healthcare community, state health officials and federal authorities to monitor the latest developments related to the Ebola virus, and stand ready to respond if necessary."-30-