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Health Promotion and Wellness

FAQ: What you need to know about Ebola

November 21, 2014

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The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed thousands of lives. In the United States, development has so far been limited in scope with only a few cases reported. As national health leaders have stressed, there is no Ebola epidemic in this country.

However, while Ebola is not easily transmitted, it carries a high mortality rate for those who contract the disease. Lewis & Clark will monitor the evolving situation and take reasonable measures to prepare for the potential occurrence of the disease.

What actions is Lewis & Clark taking related to Ebola?
  1. All community members planning to travel to an affected area are asked to contact Melissa Osmond, associate director of health promotion, for a consultation prior to departure.

  2. Following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lewis & Clark’s Student Health Service has implemented an Ebola screening process, asking patients whether they have traveled to affected areas.   

  3. Lewis & Clark has established an Ebola Preparedness Planning Group, consisting of staff from across the institution. The group will prepare our community for a variety of contingencies.

Many Lewis & Clark community members will be traveling for Thanksgiving and winter break. Are there any travel notices or requirements?

Lewis & Clark students, faculty, and staff with plans to travel to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone are asked to contact Melissa Osmond, Health Promotion and Wellness, at 503-768-7112 prior to departure and provide her with their planned itinerary for travel. Upon their return students, faculty, and staff are asked to contact Osmond for screening prior to returning to campus.

The CDC has issued a Warning, Level 3 travel notice for U.S. citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. CDC has also issued an Alert, Level 2 travel notice for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A small number of Ebola cases have been reported in the DRC, though current information indicates that this outbreak is not related to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. For travel notices and other information for travelers, visit the CDC  Travelers’ Health Ebola website.

Any person who becomes ill while traveling—even if only with a fever—should consult a healthcare provider immediately and tell him or her about their recent travel and potential contacts. It is important to call the Student Health Service, your healthcare provider, or the emergency room and tell them about your symptoms prior to going to the office or emergency room so that arrangements can be made to prevent transmission to others in the healthcare setting.

What is the Lewis & Clark Student Health Service doing to monitor for Ebola?

The Student Health Service will screen all ill students when they call or come in to the Health Service by asking two questions:

  1. Do you have a fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and additional symptoms of severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and/or unexplained hemorrhage?

  1. Have you traveled to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone within 21 days of the onset of these symptoms?

Students, faculty or staff answering yes to both of the above questions will be further screened by the Health Service medical staff and either put in isolation or asked to isolate themselves. The Multnomah County Ebola Response team will be notified.

Lewis & Clark Student Health Service and Health Promotion staff have been tracking  information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization about Ebola since its initial outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in March 2014. The Student Health Service has developed a procedure to handle anyone who presents with symptoms of the virus. Staff have been trained to assess ill students who may have traveled outside of the United States or specific areas where there are confirmed cases of Ebola. If suspected cases are identified, staff will work closely with the Multnomah County Health Department and the CDC to assist the ill individual and protect the Lewis & Clark community.

Will Ebola have any impact on Lewis & Clark’s study abroad programs?

This spring, Lewis & Clark will run an overseas program in Senegal, as it has since 1989. As always, the well-being of our students is our first priority, as it has been since Lewis & Clark began sending students abroad more than 50 years ago.

There has been one reported case of Ebola in Senegal. The patient did recover and was sent home to Guinea. Since August 29, there have been no new cases reported in Senegal. International flights from the United States and Europe continue on a regular basis.

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs monitors public announcements and advisories issued by the U.S. State Department and the World Health Organization on a daily basis. To date, there have been no advisories or warning against travel to Senegal.

Lewis & Clark is prepared to assess risk, respond to emergencies and to take appropriate measures with our overseas programs. For a more detailed discussion about the program health and safety, please visit the Overseas and Off-Campus Programs website.

What if I think I have been exposed to Ebola?

Isolate yourself, monitor your temperature, and call your healthcare provider. Students should contact the Student Health Service at 503-768-7165 for phone triage (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or contact their off-campus healthcare provider. After business hours, all Lewis & Clark students should contact our 24/7 nursing consultation line at 800-607-5501.

I am experiencing some flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, headache, muscle aches). How do I know if I have seasonal influenza or Ebola?

Seasonal influenza and Ebola infection can cause some similar symptoms. If you have had direct contact or close contact with the bodily fluids of someone with Ebola or traveled to a country where there are active Ebola cases, you should be screened for Ebola. However, if have had no potential exposure to Ebola, your symptoms are most likely caused by seasonal influenza.

It is usually not possible to determine whether a patient has seasonal influenza or Ebola infection based on symptoms alone. However, there are tests to detect seasonal influenza and Ebola infection. Your doctor will determine if you should be tested for these illnesses based on your symptoms, clinical presentation, and recent travel or exposure history.

It is always a good rule of thumb to stay home if you have a temperature of 100°F or more, vomiting, or diarrhea. Return to work or school when you have no fever for 24 hours without the use of any fever reducing medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen.

To avoid becoming ill with flu or other infectious diseases ALWAYS remember to:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Keep your hands away from your face.

  • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids.  Always treat all body fluids as if they are potentially infectious.

How is Ebola transmitted?

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with body fluids—vomit, blood, urine, saliva, sweat, feces, breast milk, and semen of a person who is sick with Ebola. Ebola is NOT transmitted through air or water, insects, or food grown or sold legally in the United States. Additional risk factors for becoming infected with the virus include residence in or travel to an area where Ebola transmission is active, or direct handling of bats, rodents, or primates from a disease endemic area.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?
  • Fever 100.4 or greater

  • Severe headache

  • Muscle pain

  • Weakness

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal (stomach) pain

  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.

Ebola resources

CDC Information about Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease)

CDC Advice for Colleges, Universities, and Students about Ebola in West Africa

CDC Survival Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel

CDC Travel Health Notices

Oregon Health Authority Ebola Updates

Multnomah County “Know Your Risks” Posters and Pamphlets

If you have additional questions about Ebola and what Lewis & Clark is doing to prepare our campus, please contact the Health Promotion and Wellness at 503-768-8225, healthed@lclark.edu, or the Student Health Service at 503-768-7165, health@lclark.edu.