Even though people are being told that they can catch Ebola from being on the same city bus as a potentially infected person, being on the same cruise ship as a potentially infected person, or just living in the same neighborhood as a potentially infected person, none of this is true (in the case of this particular virus. If we are talking about smallpox or a different sort of virus, the rules, of course, change). The fact is that the people most likely to be exposed to the Ebola virus in the US are first responders. These are the people on the front lines who are most likely to get someone's blood, spit or vomit on them, namely doctors, nurses, EMS providers, police officers, etc. If you are one of the people in this high-risk category, here are five tips for keep yourself safe when dealing with potentially infected people.
- Use common sense. When I saw medical personnel on the news in paper gowns, paper masks, and in some cases dressed head to toe in PPEs with their necks exposed, I had to wonder WTF they were thinking. I'm guessing that it didn't dawn on people that bodily fluids can easily penetrate through a PAPER gown. Duh.
- Always wear your PPEs. This should be a no brainer in any medical setting but it took ages just to get providers in the habit of wearing gloves so this won't change quickly. Gloves and protective eye wear should be mandatory and depending on the situation, a proper face mask wouldn't be too extreme either.
- Do your research. I realize that medical providers are busy and are used to waiting until they "get the memo" before doing whatever they are told to do in said memo, but there is no excuse for anyone who may come into contact with an infected person to not do a reasonable amount of research on the disease in question (in this case Ebola) so that they have some solid facts about the disease and aren't listening to regurgitated crap on CNN.
- Learn from those who are well versed in the situation you may be facing. Again, why didn't people question why it takes three people to decon a medical care provider coming out of an Ebola ward in Liberia while in Dallas, healthcare providers were told to just take of their PPEs themselves and toss them in the garbage? The minimum level of care that providers are given in the US should be commensurate to what they would receive if they were working in a Liberian hospital and that doesn't seem to be happening yet.
- Refuse to do something that could put your life in danger. When the first Ebola patient in Dallas was confirmed, law enforcement officers were sent to his home, with no PPEs and with concerns for their safety yet they went anyway. I know all about chain of command and protocols but if someone tells you to jump off a bridge...
I know that most people will do what they are told and not raise a fuss but this is a whole new scenario where people need to take responsibility for their own safety. More info here on what is NOT working in the fight against Ebola in the US.