The confirmed diagnosis of Ebola in a Dallas patient was not unexpected, said a press release from Santa Barbara’s Public Health Department, and was considered likely from of the nexus of the growing outbreak in West Africa, what can be a long incubation period, and international travel. The department has recently put protocols in place to deal with the hemorrhagic fever should it appear in the county. The preparations include working with Santa Barbara Airport and first responders on identifying potential patients and using protective equipment.
Hospitals, urgent care facilities, and other health-care providers have been alerted to recognize symptoms — and to ask about international travel, especially to West Africa, in the past 21 days. Public Health plans to hold a practice drill for Ebola emergency response in November, with the participation of hospitals and government agencies. Also, the Public Health laboratory has been trained in handling Ebola specimens and has issued guidelines to hospital labs in the county.
Ebola often appears first as a fever, and a history of contact with a person with Ebola symptoms heightens the risk. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids — including vomit, blood, sweat, urine, and semen — of a person with symptoms, which can take 2-21 days to appear. It is not believed that the infected are contagious during the incubation period. The treatment is supportive care, and no vaccine is available. Public Health suggests that travelers returning from Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, or Nigeria take their temperature twice a day, and check with their doctor if they develop a fever.
Though the current outbreak is the worst known since the disease was named in 1976 during an outbreak along its namesake river in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, local health officials believe the strong medical infrastructure in the U.S. will contain the disease. They remain in close contact with state and federal officials on the status of new U.S. cases.