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Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 15, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Ebola: Do more to prepare the public, not just health workers

Dr. Meagan Kay’s comment about having “a lot of confidence in our health system” in controlling the Ebola virus should bring some comfort to health care workers [“Ready for Ebola? Local health workers say yes,” Local News, Oct. 11]. They and their patients can be reasonably protected if the correct universal precautions are followed: protective gloves, clothing, masks, disinfectants, disposal of contaminated materials.

This scenario assumes that Ebola-infected individuals only have contact with people in health-care settings. What about the non-medical, untrained employees like cleaning personnel who are called to “Aisle 5” to clean up a spill when a person vomits or has a nose bleed. There are hotel housekeepers who daily have contact with and clean up bodily fluids of all sorts. How do they handle those contaminated towels and linen? And assuming the virus can live on surfaces for several hours, what about routine cleaning of those surfaces without protective gear?

Let’s get real here. Similar to the flu virus, which can infect people who touch a surface hours after an ill person has come and gone, so can Ebola, we are told. If the unsuspecting person touches something where virus is still active (bathroom sink, table top surface, then touches their eyes, nose or mouth with the same unwashed hand, Ebola has found a new home.  Ever see a young child who does not rub their eyes or stick their fingers in his or her mouth. The newly infected health-care worker at the Texas hospital was accused of a “breach of protocol” by touching eyes or mouth after removing protective clothing.

Ebola can only be transmitted by “direct contact.”  This includes direct contact with everyday items, not just the infected person. Public-health officials need to get their heads out of the sand and work on teaching the public how to avoid infection, not just for health care workers. And the sooner the better, since cases will grow exponentially if the media and public health continue to spin unreliable reassurances.

Bonnie Stone, Kent

Comments | More in Ebola | Topics: Bonnie Stone, disease, Ebola

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