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Don't Be Afraid of Ebola, Says Mercy College Expert

The Ebola virus
The Ebola virus Photo Credit: Centers for Diease Control and Prevention
Professor Rossi A. Hassad, Ph.D, MPH teaches at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, and is a member of the American College of Epidemiology
Professor Rossi A. Hassad, Ph.D, MPH teaches at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, and is a member of the American College of Epidemiology Photo Credit: Mercy College

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. may be alarming for some, however local health officials say the public shouldn’t fear a U.S. outbreak of the virus.

“I am highly confident that any Ebola case in the U.S. will be well-contained and controlled, given the modern and effective surveillance and other public health measures in place," said Professor Rossi A. Hassad, Ph.D, MPH, who teaches at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry and is a member of the American College of Epidemiology.

Dr. Debra Spicehandler, the Co-Chief of Infectious Diseases for Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, said Ebola is much harder to catch than the flu, which is transmitted through the air. She says she is more concerned about the enterovirus D68 that has spread to Westchester. You’d have to come in direct contact with an Ebola patient’s bodily fluids, such as blood, urine or sweat, in order to be infected.

Click here for everything you need to know about Ebola.

“I think that everyone should have a heightened awareness of people who have traveled,” said Spicehandler. “I don’t think people from their day-to-day lives should be concerned about contracting Ebola

According to Spicehandler, Northern Westchester Hospital and many hospitals throughout the country are expressing extra caution and are already prepared if a patient were to come in with Ebola.

Northern Westchester Hospital began contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about a month ago to make sure the hospital's policies and procedures were in line with CDC’s guidelines. The hospital will continually review their policies and procedures, and check in with the CDC throughout the length of the outbreak.

Many of the protocols for Ebola are the same as with any infectious disease: review the patient’s travel history, treat the patient, isolate the patient and find out who the patient is in contact with.

“With the rapidly expanding epidemic in West Africa, there is an increasing likelihood that the disease will spread through international travel,” said Hassad.

The CDC reports that Ebola has already killed 2007 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria since March. According to Hassad the U.S. diagnosis in of Ebola in Texas is believed to be the first case of virus reported outside of West Africa. Though a few cases of Ebola outside West Africa may pop-up, Hassad said it isn’t likely that it would turn into an epidemic in the U.S.

“People should be more concerned about being protected against the flu, and getting their flu shots and less concerned about Ebola,” said Spicehandler.

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