Although U.S. Ebola outbreak unlikely, clinicians urged to prepare

the Clinical Advisor take:

The likelihood of a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States is “vanishingly small”, according to an article published by MedPage Today.

Despite various infectious disease specialists echoing of the rarity of a potential Ebola outbreak, the first diagnosis of Ebola in the United States, and how Texas Health Presbyterian handled the patient, has left many to question the preparedness of health centers across the country to battle a potential outbreak.

Issues surrounding the treatment of the first Ebola-infected patient serve as a reminder to clinicians and hospital administrators to review their infectious disease plans. It is still unclear if a patient history was taken, but Amesh Adalja, MD, a critical care specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, noted that failure to take an accurate travel history was a crucial blow to the handling of the patient.

“A travel history -- if one was taken, which is not clear -- should have raised a red flag,” added  Adalja.

Both the accessibility of inter-country travel and a lack of public health resources contributed to the increase of Ebola infections in West Africa.

“Imported cases of Ebola were inevitable,” noted Pascal James Imperato, MD, of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, stating “…a widespread outbreak [in the U.S.] is 'unlikely' because healthcare and public health systems are better than they are in Africa.”

Medical centers, with guidance from the CDC, should enhance their existing plans for managing infectious patients, even if the risk of an Ebola-infected patient is low. For more information, clinicians are urged to check the agency’s resources.

Ebola: Dallas Case Inevitable -- Experts
Ebola: Dallas Case Inevitable -- Experts

The Dallas Ebola case was inevitable, given the size of the epidemic raging in West Africa and the ease of modern air travel, infectious diseases specialists say.

Indeed, many told MedPage Today, the longer the African epidemic lasts the more likely such cases become, not only in the U.S,. but in other developed countries.

But the risk to the general public in the U.S. and the likelihood of a wide outbreak are vanishingly small, the experts agreed.

The man, who flew from Liberia Sept. 19 and arrived in Dallas Sept. 20, is currently in intensive care and isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, after being admitted Sept. 28. He was described as critically ill when the case was announced Sept. 30.

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